Asia International Electronics Ltd (亞洲無線電工廠)

York Lo: Asia International Electronics Ltd (亞洲無線電工廠)

Asia International Electronics Image 1 York Lo

Asia International Electronics booth at the 1971 HK Products Expo (HK Memory)

In the 1970s, Asia International Electronics Ltd (hereafter refer to as “AIE”) was one of the leading Chinese owned electronics firms in HK, being one of two Chinese-owned firms (the other being Atlas) amongst the top 10 radio manufacturers in HK in 1974 which collectively controlled 50% of the market and one of the first electronic firms to establish joint ventures in the mainland in the late 1970s.

AIE was founded by Vong Hoi-tong (黃海通, hereafter refer to as “H.T. Vong”) and his brothers Wong Chi-keung (黃志強, “C.K. Wong”) and Wong Chi-wai (黃志偉, “C.W. Wong”) to manufacture transistor radios. As a firm, AIE was incorporated in 1970 but it could have been established earlier.

Asia International Electronics Image 2 York Lo

Actress Nancy Sit (薛家燕) visiting the AIE showroom in Central and was received by Wong Chi-wai (left) and Hoi-tong Vong (right) in 1976 (Kung Sheung Evening News, 1976-12-29)

By 1975, AIE had over 200 workers and was one of the leading radio manufacturers in HK with its factory located at 205 Wai Yip Street in Kwun Tong. In June, a strange incident took place at the Kwun Tong plant when four workers were injured by shrapnel from a gunshot allegedly fired from a rifle owned by C.W. Wong after a squabble between the management and some of the staff. Nothing came out of the incident.

Asia International Electronics Image 3 York Lo

Article about the shooting incident at AIE in 1975 (Kung Sheung Daily News, 1975-6-5)

Asia International Electronics Image 4 York Lo

H.T. Vong and C.K. Wong at the launch party for Sankei radios (Kung Sheung Daily News, 1976-2-27)

In 1976, AIE established a trading division to distribute imported electronics (e.g. Sankei stereo equipment from Japan which some of AIE radios resembled) and other products (brandy) in Hong Kong.  A showroom was established in Central and celebrity clients of AIE included actress Nancy Sit and philanthropist Sir Tang Shiu-kin.

Asia International Electronics Image 5 York Lo

Left: H.T. Vong (middle) receiving the CMA Best New Export Product award in 1978 from D.H. Jordan, Director of Industry and Commerce while CMA chairman Wong Tok-sau (left) looked on. (Kung Sheung Evening News, 1978-1-24) Right: Sir Tang Shiu-kin (left) pictured with C.W. Wong during his visit to AIE’s plant in 1976 where he purchased a videotape player (Kung Sheung Evening News, 1976-11-13) 

Asia International Electronics Image 6 York Lo

Williamson Enviro Stereo 2000 (left) and its label with product specifications (right). Source: Wikiboombox

In early 1978, AIE’s Williamson Enviro Stereo 2000 six bands, 7 speakers radio cassette recorder won the Electronic New Product Award as well as the most outstanding product of the year Award in the 1978 Hong Kong New Products Competition organized by the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association (CMA). In 1975 and 1977, AIE filed for patents for combined wrist radio with strap and wrist radio case.

As early as 1971, AIE had started manufacturing outside of HK with its first overseas factory in Singapore set up that year. In late 1978, AIE became one of the first foreign electronics firms to enter the mainland Chinese market after five months of investigations by H.T. Vong. AIE entered into partnership with five factories to assemble pocket-size and portable radios and radio cassettes, wireless and electronic instruments in Peking, Shanghai, Tientsin and Foochow. From 10-50% of the capacity of these factories, which employed up to 2,000 workers, was devoted to AIE contracts. (Asiaweek, 1979) AIE sent components for its radio/tape cassette players to factories in Peking, where they were put together before being shipped back to the colony for final assembly and export. The Chinese workers were paid $25 a month, less than one-sixth of what A. I.E. paid its Hong Kong employees. According to Time magazine article in 1979, AIE planned to sell the TVs manufactured by the mainland Chinese operations under the “Williamsons” name in the US as well as under private labels of K-Mart and other chains.

Asia International Electronics Image 7 York Lo

H.T. Vong talking about the prospects of the mainland Chinese electronics industry in 1979 (Ta Kung Po, 1979-7-5)

In 1988, AIE as a firm was dissolved.

Additional Sources:

  1. https://patents.justia.com/assignee/asia-international-electronics-ltd
  2. Business Times, Singapore, August 25, 1977
  3. New Nation, Oct 3, 1978
  4. HK Productivity News, 1977
  5. http://wikiboombox.com/tiki-index.php?page=Williamsons+AIE-2000

This article was first posted on 7th May 2018.

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