Chan Cheung (陳章): Trader, Garment Manufacturer and Developer

York Lo: Chan Cheung (陳章): Trader, Garment Manufacturer and Developer

From the 1940s to 1970s, Chan Cheung, who also went by Chan Chingman (正文,1911-1989), was a prominent business figure in Hong Kong whose business interests range from his namesake Chingman & Sons, a leading importer of fabrics and furniture to La Falandy, the distributor of French wine of the same name and maker of smoke detectors in partnership with Wong Chi-wai of AIE (see article) to Jimmy Garment Factory. He also developed properties through Chingman and the listed Mercantile Foundation and was known in the horseracing circles for winning a lawsuit against the Jockey Club.   

Chingman & Sons (義德洋行) from the 1940s to 1960s 

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Left: The family of Chan Cheung (seated first from the right) and his cousin S.F. Chan (back row, third from the left) in 1952 (courtesy of Chan Ho-ming); Right: Firefighters putting out the fire at Chingman’s location on Pottinger Street in 1962 (KSDN, 1962-7-14) 

A native of Jiangmen in Guangdong province, Chan Cheung started his career as a fabric broker and established Chingman & Co at 2A Pottinger Street shortly after the War where he was supported by Charles Luk as general manager, Fong Tso-hing (方興) as accountant and his cousin S.F. Chan (陳樹芬, 1920-2001), Y.C. Mok, K.M. Chan, Y.T. Kong, K.Y. Lee and Mrs. A. R. Carvalho on staff. (Business Directory of HK, Canton and Macao, 1949) The firm primarily focused on trading of fabrics in the beginning but also served as agent for New Zealand Insurance and represented the Truman brand of cigarettes.   

Chan Cheung joined the Jockey Club in 1947 and owned several horses in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In July 1958, Chan Cheung made headlines when his Jockey Club membership was revoked due to inquiry into one of his horses and he hired the barrister Brook Bernacchi to take the venerable Club to court. In December 1959, Chan Cheung won his suit against the Jockey Club as the High Court ruled that his membership was wrongfully terminated, making him one of two who have won lawsuit against the powerful institution. (the other being Ho Man-fat, racehorse owner and founder of Sing Pao) However, with bad taste in his mouth, Chan Cheung gave up his membership rather than re-joining the Club. (KSEN, 1959-12-15; KSDN, 1959-12-17) 

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Chan Cheung (aka Chan Ching-man, left) with Tso Tsun-on (center) and Yu Kee-leung before boarding CAT flight from HK to Taiwan in 1960 (WKYP, 1960-11-22) 

In September 1959, Chingman & Sons opened a new and expanded retail outlet at its premises at 2A Pottinger Street and the guest of honor at the opening ceremony was the Cathay actress Christine Pai. The store sold silk stockings, adult and children clothing and knitwear. (WKYP, 1959-9-6) 

In July 1962, a fire broke out at Chingman’s location at 2A Pottinger Street which lasted an hour and resulted in several hundred thousand dollars in damages including many valuable woolen fabrics but fortunately the 11 staff led by Au Wing managed to escape unharmed. The four-story wooden building was recently sold to HK Chinese Bank for over HK$1 million. (TKP, 1962-7-14) After that, Chingman moved its offices to Room 402 at the Chartered Bank Building in Central. 

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Ad for Chingman’s Man Yuen Garden in 1963. (WKYP, 1963-2-18) 

Chan Cheung was one of the original residents of Yau Yat Tsuen upscale housing development in Kowloon which was developed in 1949 by a group of industrialists led by the preserved ginger king U Tat-chee and Chan was a neighbor of Lun Chak-sum of Chung Kai Knitting (see article). In the 1960s, he entered real estate development himself and through Chingman developed the 12-story Man Yuen Garden (文苑花園) on Kennedy Road in the Mid-Levels in 1963. Chan later moved into the residential building himself and the building which was designed by famous architect Eric Cumine was available for sale through monthly installment plans over 3 and 5 years with monthly payments of HK$1000.  

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Ad for Chingman’s Efficiency House in 1965 (KSDN, 1965-1-18) 

In 1965, Chingman developed the 15-story Efficiency House (義發工業大廈) on a 20000 sq ft site at 35 Tai Yau Street in San Po Kong with total factory space of 300,000 sq ft. Chingman kept some floors as its offices and leased out the rest with flats ranging from 4000 to 20000 sq ft in size and starting rent at 50 cents per sq ft. (KSDN, 1965-1-18) In October 1972, a category 4 fire broke out at a shoe factory on the 3rd floor of the Efficiency House. The factory had 300 workers and occupied 10000 sq ft.  (WKYP, 1972-10-25) 

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Wedding picture of Chan Ying-keung in 1961 (WKYP, 1961-7-9) 

In July 1964, Chan Cheung celebrated the 90th birthday of his mother at the Canton Restaurant and attendees include Sir S.N. Chau, C.Y. Kwan, R.C. Lee, Kwok Chan, Judge Lo Hin-shing, Hui Oi-chow, Cheung Chan-hon (see article on Cheong Lee), Chow Chung-ting (see Chow Ngai Hing article), Chow Yau, Chan Hong-wah (see Longevity Milk article) and many others, which illustrate his extensive network of friends and social status. (WKYP, 1964-7-12) 

As reflected by the firm’s name of Chingman & Sons, Chan Cheung was interested in building a family business and his three wives (his third wife used to work at the Tonocchy club, see article on Wong Kau) who gave him at least five sons – Chan Ying-keung (應強), Chan Ying-wo (陳應), Chan Ying-kim (陳應), Chan Ying-wing (陳應榮) and Chan Ying-kin (陳應) and a daughter, Chan Ying-yee (陳應). The eldest son Chan Ying-keung joined the family business after studies in the UK and by the early 1960s was manager of Jimmy Garment Factory (精美製衣廠), which his father set up in Castle Peak Road. He married Chan Kar-bo, the younger sister of H.W. Chan of Longevity Milk (see article) and graduate of the Northcote Teachers College in 1961 as shown in the article above.   

Chan Cheung’s fourth son Chan Ying-wing also studied in the UK and later started Eminent Fashions in Singapore. In August 1969, Ying-wing led a group of HK manufacturers in Singapore to form a HK Industrial & Commercial Investment Association with Wong Toke-sau of Amoy Canning, Chuang Chong-wen of Chuang’s Cutlery, Chua Lian-huat of Min Ngai Huat Kee and C.L. Hsu of Diaward Steel Works as honorary chairmen. Ying-wing was elected chairman with Hsu’s son as vice chairman, Wong’s son as treasurer and Chan Chi-kong of Hang Shun Garment as secretary. (NYSP, 1969-8-6) In 1973, Eminent participated in a fashion show organized by the Singapore Manufacturers Association and showcased its denim and knit jackets for exports. (Straits Times, 1973-8-30) In 1977, Eminent had 200 workers and during Chinese New Year, Chan sent them to a free show of the HK comedy Private Eyes to relieve their stress. (Straits Times, 1977-2-5)

Chingman. Mercantile Foundation and La Falandy in the 1970s and beyond

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Left: ad for Lafer furniture in Singapore by Chingman & Sons in 1973 (SCJP, 1973-12-4); Right: Chan Cheung’s cousin and former associate S.F. Chan (right) with Lam Kin-ming of Lai Sun Garments at the wedding of his son Ho-ming in the early 1970s (courtesy of Chan Ho-ming) 

In the early 1970s, Chingman expanded into the distribution of furniture after it had secured the Asia Pacific distribution rights to the Brazilian modern furniture maker Lafer (麗發傢俬), founded in 1927 by the family of the same name. In late 1973, Chingman launched a marketing campaign for Lafer furniture in Australia and HK. In November, the firm did a show for Lafer at the Melbourne Hotel in Melbourne where it received orders totaling HK$1.5 million from Myer department store and Furniture City. In December, it had a Lafer exhibition at the HK City Hall for 6 days and sold HK$1 million worth of furniture. At the time, Lafer was also sold at Sincere and Lane Crawford in HK in addition to the firm’s showroom on the 16th floor of Efficiency House. (WKYP, 1973-12-11)  

In April 1975, Chingman organized another Lafer furniture show at the HK City Hall which featured lucky draw of a MP121 furniture (MP is short for patented furniture in Portugese) set worth $7950. (WKYP, 1975-5-13) In September 1976, Falandy was launched in the HK market at a reception at the Highball Restaurant & Nightclub. (KSEN, 1976-8-28) Chingman also marketed Lafer extensively in Singapore. 

In 1977, Chingman moved its office to Room 2211-2215 at Hang Lung Centre in Causeway Bay. At the time it also operated a showroom for Lafer furniture on Morrison Hill Road. (WKYP, 1977-4-2) 

Not to miss out on the stock market boom in the early 1970s, Chan Cheung established and listed Mercantile Foundation (銓利基業) in 1972. In spring 1973, Mercantile acquired Skilful Enterprises, which owned a 50000 sq ft site at 1-16 Fung Wong Terrace in Wanchai through the issuance of 12.5 million shares at $1 each. (WKYP, 1973-6-29) The stock which went public at $1 rose to $5.50 at the peak of the bubble. In 1973, the firm recorded profits of $1.8 million but when the recession hit, it dropped to $50000 in 1974 and then a loss of $3 million in 1975 while the stock dropped to a low of 25 cents. In response, the firm sold its Fung Wong Terrace site to Cheung Kong Holdings who developed it into Phoenix Court in 1977 but it still had 80000 sq ft site in Kam Tsin village in northern New Territories and the stock recovered to the 50 cents level by 1976, which was still a significant discount from its NAV per share at $1.36. (KSEN, 1976-11-9) By then Chan had sold Mercantile to Simon Yip (see article). Chan was also involved in the listed World Development (世界發) which developed World Garden in Shatin and United Centre in Admiralty with the Macau casino tycoon Yip Hon (葉漢).  

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Left: Fan Kit-pang; Right: Chan Cheung (first from right) and Fan Siu-pang (second from left) with Miss Hong Kong Elaine Suen (孫泳恩, second from right) and singer Fanny Wang (董妮, first from left) at the Liandry wine tasting event at the Highball Restaurant in March 1978 (KSEN, 1978-3-6); Right: the management of Falandy in 1976. Right to left: Wong Chi-wai, Wong Po-shan, Chan Cheung, Fan Siu-pang, Chan Ying-keung (KSEN, 1976-8-28)

In July 1976, Chan Cheung in partnership with Fan Siu-pang (范少) as vice chairman and Wong Chi-wai (黃志偉) as managing director incorporated La Falandy Far East Ltd (法郎) which secured the distribution rights of the French wine brand Falandy (保君能) in the Far East. In September 1976, Chan Cheung visited France to prepare for the launch of Falandy in HK and also visited Italy for the World Furniture Expo in Milan. (KSEN, 1976-9-20; 1976-10-11)  

Fan is the son of Fan Kit-pang (范潔朋, 1880-1944), a well-known business figure in Macau in the 1920s and 1930s. A native of Nanhai, Fan Kit-pang was sent by Tan Chong-lin, the governor of Kwangtung and Kwangsi to Japan to study commerce but joined the revolutionary cause and served in the Kwangtung military administration before joining the business realm in 1922, starting Ah Tung Knitting (亞通織造廠) in Canton and Macao Land (澳門置業公司) in Macau in addition to being partners of many businesses in HK. In 1930, he won the gambling concession in Macau and launched the city’s first greyhound racing in 1931. Outside of business, Kit-pang was very active in community affairs having served as president of the Kiang Vu Hospital, HK Firecrackers Exporters Association and Macao Chamber of Commerce and was elected to the Chinese National Congress. Before joining Falandy, Fan Siu-pang was HK sales representative of Melbourne-based developer Scenic Development in the early 1960s and sold 160 of land on Philip Island in Victoria and 428 blocks of land in Narooma in the south coast of New South Wales to HK buyers including actress Diana Chang and his address at the time was listed as 185 Wing Lok West Street (WKYP, 1963-7-3) In the 1970s, he operated the President Club in Causeway Bay where he hosted Taiwanese stars such as Peter Yang Kwan (楊羣) Lam Chung (林冲) and Ha Wa (夏娃).   

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La Falandy executives Wong Chi-wai (second from left) and Fan Siu-pang (first from right) with foreign guests at the opening of the Product Export Centre in October 1976. (KSEN, 1976-10-3) 

In October 1976, Fan and Wong opened Product Export Centre (商品出口中心) on the 20th floor of Hang Lung Centre. The center, which occupied several tens of thousands of square feet had 200 rooms for manufacturers to showcase their products to foreign buyers and staffed by multilingual staff was the largest of its kind in HK at the time.  

In 1977, Wong Chi-wai, who was managing director of electronics manufacturer AIE, developed an electronic smoke detector and La Falandy acquired an electronics factory to mass produce the product, which cost half of similar products in the market, for exports to US, Europe and Southeast Asia. (KSEN, 1977-2-25) In 1979, La Falandy formed Thermal Electronics, a joint venture with Teltherm Industries of New Zealand to manufacture and export smoke detectors. (Overseas Trading, 1979-5-25) 

In early 1978, La Falandy launched Falandy’s sister brand Liandry brandy (安得利) in HK with singers Cheung Wai (張慧) and Shu Nga-chung (舒雅頌) as guests and others shown below in its launch events. The brandy, which had four varieties ranging from $78 to $300, was available for sale in all major department stores, supermarkets, stores and nightclubs. Also involved in the distribution of Falandy and Liandry was Mo Chi-chung (巫志中), the proprietor of Kar Wor Garment (嘉禾製衣廠) in Macau. 

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Chan Cheung, Fan Siu-pang and Mo Chi-chung with guests Gold & Silver Exchange chairman Woo Hon-fai (胡漢輝), Lee Ching (李菁) and Jenny Hu (胡燕妮) at the cocktail reception for the launch of Liandry brandy in HK in March 1978 (WKYP, 1978-3-9)  

In the 1980s, Chan Cheung got into financial troubles due to excessive leverage and landed in prison a few years before his death. He was succeeded at Chingman by Chan Tat-ching (陳達鉦), also known as “Brother Six” () as he ranked six out of his 13 siblings and his younger twin brother Chan Tat-kim (陳達), who swam to HK from the mainland in 1971. Tat-ching is perhaps best known for being the mastermind of Operation Yellowbird, which helped over 130 dissidents escaped from mainland China after 1989 leveraging his connections in the trading and logistics business. As a firm, Chingman & Sons was incorporated in 1963 and dissolved in 1994. It was succeeded by Chingman Ltd, which was incorporated in 1996 and dissolved in 2005. La Falandy was dissolved in 2003. 

S.F. Chan left Chingman in the late 1960s and became a leading trader of garment quotas, counting the major garment manufacturers such as Lai Sun, Jan Sin Mee and Murjani among his clients. In 1969, S.F. invested in Ho Cheong Toy Factory (浩昌玩具) in Kwun Tong which was started by a friend and became its chairman. After the Far East Stock Exchange was formed in 1969, S.F. Chan secured a seat under S.F. Chan & Co in 1972 with the help of Exchange co-founder Kenneth Wong Kai-ming (see article on Wong Man-keung). 

As for Fan Siu-pang, he later served as director of IHD (see article on Goodyear) and operated a gambling boat with Yip Hon. He later assisted Lui Che-woo in securing his Macau gambling license in the early 2000s as a director of Galaxy Casino. One of his sons Peter Fan Chor-ming (范佐明) is a lawyer while another son Mark Fan Chin-pang (范展) started the Yau Gwat Hei (有骨) chain of hotpot restaurants in 2003. The chain was very high profile with its 12-story flagship restaurant in Happy Valley and heavy marketing including hiring TVB actress Sheren Tang (鄧萃雯) as spokesperson and sponsoring the 2005 Johnny To triad movie Election in which Tony Leung Kar-fai as a triad boss shouted out the name of the chain. Sadly, the chain collapsed after a few years in the late 2000s.  

Sources (other than what’s cited above):

This article was first posted on 8th June 2020.

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