Au Shue-Hung (區樹洪, 1902-1991) – Real Estate Pioneer and Philanthropist
York Lo: Au Shue-Hung (區樹洪, 1902-1991) – Real Estate Pioneer and Philanthropist
Left: Au Shue-hung (center) and his wife with Governor Sir David Wilson (right) in 1988 at the dedication ceremony of the Au Shue Hung Centre for Film and Television; Right: Everest Building – the blue billboard on the right contained evangelical messages put up by the Au family.
Earlier on the website, we covered the rise and fall of the shoe and handbag brand Millie’s, best remembered by the giant peacock neon sign in the 1970s at its flagship store located at the first few floors of the 16-story Everest Building (金峰大廈) at 241-243 Nathan Road in Kowloon. While Millie’s was very high profile, the landlord and developer of Everest Building by the name of Au Shue-hung was very low profile and his name would not be known if not for the many buildings affiliated with the HK Baptist Church donated by him and his family and named in his honor. Au foresaw the potential of Nathan Road in the 1950s and 1960s and his family developed and owned several properties (many of them with Chinese name starting with the auspicious character for gold) on the road which became a major shopping destination. The properties were gradually sold off by his descendants after his death in 1991 with the crown jewel Everest Building sold for over HK$2 billion in 2018.
Au Shue-hung was born in his native Heshan in Guangdong province and was involved in the dealing of piece goods and medicine in the mainland before he came to HK after the War. With the assistance of his father in law Yeung Kei-shou (楊其壽) who was an officer in the New Territories Affairs Office, Au transferred his money from the mainland and began investing in real estate.
According to his daughter, Au was a strong believer in the real estate’s golden rule of location, location and location and intentionally picked sites on Nathan Road which were intersections or corners to benefit from foot traffic from multiple streets. One of his first major projects was Everest Building which was built at the cost of HK$3 million in 1960. He had the foresight to lease the first several floors of the building to Millie’s in the late 1960s which turned the location into a shopping mecca with one of the first food courts in Hong Kong.
The Everest Building was followed by the 15 story Majestic House (金鑾大廈) at 80 Nathan Road, which was built in 1963 and the 19 story Honour House (金勳大廈) at 375-381 Nathan Road, which was completed in 1969. The family was also involved in the development of 759 Nathan Road.
One article suggested that Golden Crown Court at 66-70 Nathan Road was also developed by Au but based on articles from 1961, it was developed by Fu Luen Investment Co Ltd (incorporated in 1960 and dissolved in 1991) whose primary shareholders were all Shanghainese including Enicar watch distributor Lee Wai-lee, Hsin Chong Construction founder Godfrey Yeh (see Shanghainese Builders part II) and Dah Sing Bank director Z.Y. Chen. (WKYP, 1961-5-20)
In the 1970s, Au also developed properties in Yuen Long in partnership with local leaders such as Cheung Yan-lung and Lau Wong-fat. In 1979, Au’s youngest daughter Irene Au (區頌瑜) returned to HK after graduating from the US with a MBA and eventually joined the family business. When the Millie’s Group collapsed in 1984, Irene managed to secure other tenants to fill in the void such as Watson’s (which rented various spaces in the building for over three decades), Chow Tai Fook Jewelry and Bank of East Asia with Harris Property Management (夏利時物業管理有限公司) as the management company. Over time, most of the properties were sold except Everest which was kept in memory of Au Shue-hung and the tenant mix on the upper floors also shifted over the years from factories, import/export firms and accounting firms to fashion merchandisers in more recent years. By 2010, the remaining properties which included the Everest Building (generating annual rental income of HK$30 million), two residences in Kowloon Tong and many residential units and retail spaces held by the family was valued at over HK$1.5 billion.
Left: Au Shue-hung (left) and Baptist Hospital chairman Chiu Hin-kwong visiting the newly opened Au Shue Hung Health Centre in 1983 (TKP, 1983-11-27); Right: Honour House on Nathan Road
AU Shue-hung had a total of 4 sons and 4 daughters, of which 3 daughters and 1 son are children from his marriage to Yeung King-fong (楊瓊芳), whom he met during the War and married in December 1943. Yeung attended Lai Chack and Belilos Girls School in HK and received her nursing training at HK Sanatorium before becoming a nurse in the mainland during the War. She came from a family of Christians and was a devout member and leader of the Kowloon City Baptist Church. As a result, the family supported many charitable causes related to the Church over the years.
In the early 1980s, Au Shue-hung donated HK$5 million towards the construction of the HK Baptist Hospital Au Shue Hung Health Centre (區樹洪健康中心), which was opened in 1983.
In 1988, Au and his family made the decision to establish the Au Shue Hung Foundation and earmarked half of all rental income generated by the Everest Building to charitable causes. The same year, the Au Shue Hung Garden and the Au Shue Hung Centre for Film and Television opened on the campus of the HK Baptist College (later University). In 1996, the HK Baptist University Au Shue Hung Memorial Library (浸會大學區樹洪紀念圖書館) was opened and in 2009, the HK Baptist Mr. & Mrs. Au Shue Hung Rehabilitation and Healthcare Home (香港浸信會區樹洪伉儷康復護養院) and the Mrs. Au Shue Hung Medical Centre (區樹洪夫人醫療中心) at the HK Baptist Hospital were established.
In addition to the Baptist University and Hospital, the Au family also donated generously to other Christian organizations such as Lingnan College and Alliance Bible Seminary (建道神學院) in Cheung Chau over the years.
This article was first posted on 25th October 2019.
Related Indhhk articles:
- Millie’s (妙麗)– the Iconic Handbag and Shoes Brand
- Shanghainese Builders in Hong Kong (Part Two) – Hsin Chong and Hsin Heng
- Cheong K. (章記) – Real Estate Pioneer from the 1950s and 1960s
- Goodyear(嘉年): The Rise and Fall of a Real Estate Giant
- Edward T.T. Chan (陳德泰, 1918-1981) and Tai Cheung – HK Real Estate Pioneer
- From Tea to Real Estate and Soy Milk and back to Tea – the six-generation saga of the family of Kwan Fan-fat
- Ching Chun-kau (程振球) – Real Estate, Amusement Park and Resort Pioneer
- Chan Ching-pow (陳清雹) and Po Wah Land Investment (寶華置業) – Real Estate Developer from the 1960s
- Lynhall Land Investment (聯合置業) – Real Estate Powerhouse from the late 1950s and early 1960s
- Merchant Prince: the life and many pursuits of real estate pioneer Lee Sai-wah (李世華, 1916-1975)