Susan Yuen (原劉素珊)– the Mother of the FHKI, HKMA, HKTDC and HKPC
York Lo: Susan Yuen (原劉素珊)– the Mother of the FHKI, HKMA, HKTDC and HKPC
Susan Yuen (center) with Sir Sik-nin Chau (second from left) and Sir Sze-yuen Chung (third from right) at a flag raising ceremony in one of their many overseas trips for HK industries.
Ever since their inceptions in the early 1960s, the Federation of HK Industries (FHKI), the HK Productivity Council (HKPC) and HK Trade Development Council (TDC) have played critical roles in the industrial development of Hong Kong and the HK Management Association (HKMA) has provided the management education to help achieve that success.Mrs. Susan Yuen was a key figure in the formation and the first two decades for all four organizations and severalother related organizations that contributed to HK’s industrial success and at her memorial service,Sir S.Y. Chung described Susan as the “mother of the Federation of HK Industries” and praised her enormous contributions to HK industries. In addition, Susan Yuen also played a crucial role in the eradication of tuberculosis in Hong Kong through her work with the HK Anti-Tuberculosis Association in the 1950s, earning her a place in the Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women.
Susan Yuen was born in the UK where she also received her education. (Any additional info on the early life of Susan Yuen is much appreciated). She later returned to mainland China and in 1949 moved to HK. In 1948, the Parsee merchant and philanthropist J.H.Ruttonjee (see article) established the HK Anti-Tuberculosis Association (now the HK Tuberculosis, Heart and Chest Diseases Association) to tackle the treatable disease that was killing hundreds per week in the colony, including his own daughter Tehmi in 1944. Susan joined the Association as general secretary and vice chair and during her tenure helped to establish the Ruttonjee Sanatorium (now Ruttonjee Hospital) in 1949, the Freni Memorial Convalescent Home in 1956 and Grantham Hospital in 1957.
In the late 1950s, HK was transitioning from an entrepot to an emerging industrial powerhouse. While the Chinese Manufacturers Association existed since the 1930s, it was dominated by Cantonese manufacturers and excluded other groups such as the newly arrived Shanghainese industrialists which had become important forces in HK industries. Sensing the need for a unified organization to promote the interests of HK industries in the global stage, Governor Grantham created a working party to create what became the Federation of HK Industries and recruited Susan as the secretary of the working party in 1959. The head of the working party was Chau Sik-nin (hereafter refer to as “S.N. Chau”), the physician turned businessman and politician who had worked with Susan at the Anti-Tuberculosis Association. Together, Susan and Chau managed to convince leaders of different sectional groups to join hands and form the FHKI in 1960, with Susan as its first executive director and Chau as its first chairman.
Shortly after the formation of FHKI, Susan helped to spin off two related groups. The first one was the HK Management Association which came out of her attendance with S.N. Chau, S.Y. Chung and 3 other FHKI leaders at the 12thInternational Congress of Scientific Management in Sydney in March 1960. They returned with the conviction that management education was critical to industrial success and putting her organizational skills to work, Susan formed the HKMA by November of the same year and served as its first chief executive for 17 years. The second group was the Freight Joint Committee which was formed in 1961 and became the HK Shippers Council in 1967 which she served as its first chairman and executive secretary. In her obituary, it was estimated that HK manufacturers saved over $1 billion in freight expenses thanks to the Council’s work. In 1961, she was appointed unofficial Justice of the Peace.
In 1963, Susan attended the meeting of the Asian Productivity Organization (APO, formed in 1961 with 9 countries) as a representative of Hong Kong and recommended HK to join the organization. The result was the HK Productivity Council which was formed in 1967.
Susan Yuen (third from the right) with Fung Hon-chu of Li & Fung (first from left), Sir S.N. Chau (second from left) and S.Y. Chung (first from right) in Venice as part of the Hong Kong trade delegation visiting the European Economic Community in 1963.
Taking a page from the success of JETRO in promoting Japanese trade, Susan lobbied the government to form similar organization and in return, Sir Jack Cater, then economic secretary asked her to organize the group which became the HK Trade Development Council in 1966 with S.N. Chau as chairman and Susan as a council member. Together with Chau, Susan travelled extensively across the globe representing HK export industries.
In mid-1967, Hong Kong was paralyzed by leftist riots and according to S.Y. Chung, it was Susan who convinced all committee members of the FHKI at a special meeting to declare their full and unreserved support of the government. Aside from the organizations discussed above, Susan was also involved in the formation and governorship of several other organizations including the HK Export Credit Insurance Corporation (1966),the HK Training Council (1973, became the HK Vocational Training Council in 1982), the HK Standards and Testing Centre (1963, the first third party testing lab in HK), theHK Industrial Design Council (1968, now Design Council HK) and the Packaging Council.
In 1976, Susan retired from full time work at the FHKI and HKMA and the two organizations jointly established a foundation in her honor – the Susan Yuen Fellowship & Research Foundation – to promote industrial and management research and provide fellowships to professionals. She also received an OBE from the Queen the same year for her services to industry. Outside of promoting industrial and commercial activities, Susan helped the movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw established the HK Arts Festival and served on the boards of the Ruttonjee Hospital and its sister institution, the Grantham Hospital which specializes in heart diseases and pioneered open heart surgery in Asia.
Outside of HK, Susan Yuen was also involved in many global and regional organizations. She was the second woman elected as a fellow to the International Academy of Management and served as secretary general of the World Packaging Organization and chair of the Export Group on Shipping and Ports of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. She became vice chair of the APO in 1978 and was slated to become chair of the prestigious regional organization in 1980.
Presentation of the HKMA Susan Yuen scholarships in 1979. Left to right: Wong Hak-keung, James Wu Man-hon, Susan Yuen, Tung Chee-hwa (future Chief Executive) and Cheung Lap-yan. Wong and Cheung worked for RJ Reynolds and Garden Co respectively and were recipients of the scholarships. (WKYP, 1979-8-12)
Sadly, ill health prevented her from assuming the APO chair position and on June 21st, 1980, Susan Yuen passed away. She was survived by two children – David and Diana and her memorial service at the St John’s Cathedral was attended by Financial Secretary Sir Philip Haddon-Cave, members of the Exco and Legco and titans of industries with eulogy delivered by Sir S.Y. Chung. In her memory, the HKMA has been hosting the annual Susan Yuen Memorial Lecture and Dinner since 1985 and continue to run the Susan Yuen Fellowship to this day.
Obituary of Susan Yuen in 1980 (WKYP, 1980-6-28)
Sources (in addition to what are cited above) :
Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women
Hong Kong’s Journey to Reunification: Memoirs of Sze-yuen Chung, Chinese University Press, 2001
This article was first posted on 6th September 2018.
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