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Margaret Shen (1942–1994)

by Helen Signy

from Sydney Morning Herald

The Premier paid tribute yesterday to Sydney restaurateur Ms Margaret Shen, who died in an air crash on her way to join the trade delegation he is leading in China. 

Ms Shen was one of nine foreigners who died in China's worst air crash near Xian in west-central China on Monday.          

Mr Fahey heard confirmation of Ms Shen's death during talks with the Guangdong International Trust and Investment Corporation, hours before the party had to board its own domestic flight to Beijing. 

"She was a tireless worker, with an extensive knowledge of doing business in China, and always did much to foster greater economic and trade links between Australia and China," Mr Fahey said in Beijing. 

Ms Shen, 53, had been flying from Shanxi Provence to Guangdong to join the Australian delegation for trade talks and to announce the finalisation of a joint venture to build a fertiliser plant with her company, China Sea International Trading Group Sydney. 

The China Northwest Airlines plane, a Russian Tu-154, exploded in mid-air eight minutes after take-off, killing all 160 passengers and crew. 

Mr Fahey was a friend of Ms Shen and often visited her restaurant, the Noble House in Bent Street, near the State Office Block. 

Flowers poured into the restaurant yesterday as members of the Chinese community mourned the loss of one of its most active and respected members. 

"She was a really, really nice lady, really warm," said the restaurant manager of seven years, Ms Clara Ng. 

"Most of our customers really enjoyed Margaret's company - when she was in Sydney she would spend all her time in the restaurant with her customers," she said, adding that the restaurant was also frequented by the former Opposition Leader, Dr Hewson, the former Premier, Mr Greiner, and the Deputy Premier, Mr Armstrong. 

Ms Shen was born in Beijing and was taken as a baby to Hong Kong by her mother after her father, a soldier, was killed by the Japanese during World War II. 

After being educated in Hong Kong, England and Italy, she moved to Australia in 1964 and became a model, then learnt photography, which enabled her to travel the world. 

Ms Shen opened her first restaurant, The Peking Palace, in Cremorne 20 years ago, introducing one of the first outlets for quality Chinese cuisine in Australia. She later ran the Summer Palace in Bondi and the floating Tai Pan in Sydney Harbour. About 10 years ago she opened Noble House. 

A close friend, Mr Paul Lynch, said she would be remembered for her generosity. Once, a rival Japanese restaurateur had been forced to return home, and Ms Shen had paid for his two young sons to go through school, he said. 

It is understood her brother, David, is arranging for Ms Shen's remains to be returned to Australia for burial. 

Ms Shen is survived by a 31-year-old daughter, Michelle, and an 18-month-old granddaughter, Robin, and by her de facto husband for 14 years, Mr Barry Forrester.

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Citation details

Helen Signy, 'Shen, Margaret (1942–1994)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Beaumont, Margaret
  • Shen, Wa

22 January, 1942
Beijing, China


6 June, 1994 (aged 52)
Xian, China

Cause of Death

air crash

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.