From Saigon to HK and Rice to Corduroys: the Wong family of Wong Cheong Fung, King’s Dyeing, Corona Textile, and Perfecta
York Lo: From Saigon to HK and Rice to Corduroys: the Wong family of Wong Cheong Fung, King’s Dyeing, Corona Textile, and Perfecta
Wong Min-ching (third from left) with his sons and grandchildren in the mid-1960s. (Courtesy of John Huynh)
Natives of Chiuchow, the Wong family immigrated to Vietnam where they built one of the first and largest textile mills in the early 20th century before moving to HK after the War where they established Wong Cheong Fung, one of HK’s leading rice importers, King’s Dyeing & Weaving which was one of the largest dyeing and weaving mills in Hong Kong and Corona Textile, which was one of the first producers of corduroys in HK in partnership with leading Japanese firms. A third generation member also built Perfecta Dyeing, Printing & Weaving Works into one of the world’s largest based out of Panyu.
Wong Cheong Fung Weaving Factory (黃祥豐織造廠) and Wong Cheong Fung Company (黃祥豐行)
A native of Chaoyang (潮陽), family patriarch Wong Min-ching (黃綿禎, 1882-1969) was a Chinese doctor/herbalist who went to Saigon in Annam (the old name for Vietnam) in the late 19th century and started his first business venture – the Wong Cheong Fung Weaving Factory in Cholon in the 1930s when he was in his 50s. The factory was one of the first Chinese-owned textile factories in Vietnam and by the 1960s was one of the leading textile factories in the country alongside Vinatexco (越南紡織, founded by Duy-Nhat Truong 張維岳, former father in law of Walton Li 李維達 of HK Sanatorium and chairman of Hotel Arc En Ciel 天虹大酒店 in Saigon), Vimytex (越美紡織, founded in 1959 by chairman C.J. Tong 宗仁卿 of Lio Ho group in Taiwan, Chau Dao-sanh 朱介曾 from HK and managing director H.P. Jen 任鴻葆from the US) and Vinatefinco (越南印染廠founded by Long-Than Ly 李良臣). (華僑經濟年鑑, 1964) In the process, Wong became one of the richest men in Vietnam and he and his family befriended many key political figures in South Vietnam including President Nguyen Van Thieu.
Outside of business, Wong Min-ching was a generous philanthropist who served as chairman of the Chiuchow Six Counties Hospital (六邑醫院, founded in 1892 and now known as An Binh Hospital 安平醫院), one of six Chinese hospitals in Saigon, in 1945 and served on the board of the Chiang Kai Shek Hospital (中正醫院) in Saigon which was chaired by Dr. Wong Chek-wing (王爵榮, 1919-1985). A devout Buddhist, he co-founded Bright Moon Charitable Society (明月善社), a Chiuchow Buddhist organization in Saigon with eleven others including the rice and pressure lamp magnate Duong Thanh (楊業城) in the late 1940s and contributed to the building of the Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong.
After the War, the Wong family established the trading firm of Wong Cheong Fung Co (黃祥豐行) in Hong Kong to import rice from Annam. The firm operated out of 39 Des Voeux Road West in the 1940s to the early 1960s and was one of the leading rice importers in HK. (香港工商手册, 1946; CGCC Membership Directory, 1965) Later, the firm operated out of Wong House (永基大廈) at 26-30 Des Voeux Road West which was built in 1963. (Hong Kong $ Directory, 1974)
The four Wong brothers (left to right): Che-ting, Che-keung, Yip-shou, Tin-chun (Courtesy of John Huynh)
Wong Min-ching died in January 1969 at the Queen Mary Hospital in HK and he was survived by his four sons (by order of birth): Wong Yip-shou (黃業受, aka Huynh Tho), Wong Che-keung (黃志強), Wong Che-ting (黃志庭) and Wong Tin-chun (黃天俊), all of whom helped established the various family businesses in Vietnam and Hong Kong and travelled back and forth frequently between the two countries. Of the four brothers, Wong Che-keung maintained the highest profile in HK as he was extremely active in community affairs in the 1960s, having served as chairman of HK & Kowloon Chiuchow Public Association (潮州公會) and Chiu Yang Residents’ Association of HK (潮陽同鄉會) and director of the Western District Kaifong Welfare Association (西區街坊福利會) and Chiuchow Chamber of Commerce (潮州商會會董).
In August 1960, Wong Che-keung returned to HK on an Air France flight from Phnom Penh after spending time in Vietnam with his businesses and was welcomed at Kai Tak Airport by fellow Chiuchow weaving mill owners Lau Mon-ling and Lau Him-chai (see article on Chip Tak) and other Chiuchow tycoons such as Tse Sek-fui (see article on HK Old Mary) and Y.S. Chow of Chow Deuk Sang Jewelry (WKYP, 1960-8-29)
Left: Wong Che-keung receiving a flag from Miss China Kiang Luo-shun (江樂舜) in 1962 at the Chiu Chow Public Association (WKYP, 1962-10-19); Right: Wong Che-keung (second from left) with Chung Chuen-yan of Annam Pak Kwei oil and Andrew Lam of Lam Yuen Fong Watch (second from right)
Wong Che-keung (second from right) delivering a speech at the Chinese New Year banquet for Chiu Chow Public Association in 1964 (WKYP, 1964-2-17)
In 1964, Wong Che-keung’s eldest daughter Wong Yin-hing (黃燕卿), a graduate of Syracuse University in New York married Hui Chung-huen (許仲萱), the eldest son of Hui Kwok-pui (許國培), a leading Chinese businessman in Okinawa and graduate of Lingnan University. The reception at the HK Hilton was attended by over 1000 guests including Sir T.N. Chau, Secretary of Chinese Affairs J.C. McDouall and many Chiuchow tycoons covered earlier such as George Sim, Chan Dai-bun, Richard C.K. Chan, Chan Shun, Choi Cheung-kok and others such as Wong Kwai, Wong Toke-sau and even the police sergeant Lui Lok. (WKYP, 1964-2-3)
King’s Dyeing & Weaving Factory (乾豐染織廠)
Left: label for King’s Dyeing’s “Angel Globe” brand of fabric from the 1960s (Carousell); Right: the Wong family in front of the King’s Dyeing & Weaving factory in Cheung Sha Wan in the mid-1960s (courtesy of John Huynh)
Leveraging their experience from Vietnam, the Wong family established King’s Dyeing & Weaving Factory in Hong Kong in the late 1950s (although as a firm it was not incorporated until 1965) and became one of the leading dyeing and weaving mills in Hong Kong with its “Angel Globe”, “Lady on Scooter”, “Scarlet Lady” and “Sword Fish” brands of cotton fabric. (Red Book, 1969) King’s original plant was located at Lot 111 Shun Ning Road while its office was out of 39 Des Voeux Road West next to Wong Cheong Fung. (CMA Members Directory, 1958; Asia Textile Bi-Annual, 1965)
In February 1968, King’s opened its new 6-story building at 74-90 Lei Muk Road in Kwai Chung at the cost of HK$25 million and it was visited by R.G.L. Oliphant, the executive director of the HK Trade Development Council. The new factory had monthly production capacity of 8 million square yard and was equipped with the latest German, Swiss and Dutch machinery to carry out bleaching, dyeing, printing and other processes. (HK Enterprise, 1968; Asia Textile Survey, 1970) At Kings, the Wong brothers was supported by export manager Howard W. Tsang (曾浩華), who was born in Swatow in 1914 and graduated from Boone University in Hankow. (HK Album, 1967)
Corona Textile (寶冠紡織廠) and Corona Corduroy Factory (寶冠燈芯絨廠)
Wong Che-keung (second from left) and his business partners at the opening of Corona Textile in September 1961 (WKYP, 1961-9-22)
In the early 1960s, Wong Cheong Fung partnered up with the Japanese trading giant Mitsui Bussan and Dai Nippon Spinning (merged in 1969 with Nippon Rayon into Unitika) to form Corona Textiles in HK with HK$2 million in capital to manufacture corduroy. The group built a 4-story factory at 73-75 Hung To Road in Kwun Tong on a 15,000 sq ft site which opened in September 1961. The factory was managed by Wong Che-keung and his younger brother Wong Tin-chun who were chairman and factory manager respectively but the board of three was dominated by Ichiro Fujita from Mitsui and Jotaro Watanabe from Dainippon as Wong Cheong Fung only owned 30% of the venture while its Japanese partners held the remaining 70% (50% by Dai Nippon and 20% by Mitsui). Dai Nippon supplied the 300-400 looms while Mitsui handled sales outside of HK. The opening ceremony was followed by a reception at the Ambassador Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui which was attended by many guests including Sir T.N. Chau and Kenneth Fung and the Japanese consulate general and many from the Chiuchow business community and textile and weaving industries. (TKP, 1961-4-1) In the early 1960s, Corona was producing 350,000 yards of corduroy annually. (Oriental Economist, 1963)
Ad for the opening of Corona Textiles in 1961 (WKYP, 1961-9-22)
Corona Textile was dissolved in 1978 and was succeeded by Corona Corduroy Factory which was incorporated in 1975. Corona sold its site in Kwun Tong to Kian Dai Wools controlled by the Lu family of SEA Holdings and moved into the King’s Dyeing & Weaving Building in the late 1970s and a related firm – King’s Corona Trading & Garments Ltd (乾豐寶冠製衣貿易) was incorporated in 1976. Corona Corduroy was dissolved in 1991 while King’s Corona was dissolved in 1992. The original site of Corona Textile at 73-75 Hung To Road was re-developed into the 12-story Kian Dai Industrial Building in 1980 and then later sold to Pamfleet which re-developed it into KOHO and sold to the New World Group in 2014 for HK$1.6 billion.
Winland Investment (永達利企業)
Winland directors with Kowloon Exchange chairman Peter Chan Po-fun picking IPO subscriptions in 1973 (WKYP, 1973-1-25)
To capitalize on the stock market boom in the early 1970s, the Wong family injected the Kwai Chung building of King’s Dyeing Factory into King’s Land Investment (慶年豐企業, originally incorporated in 1965 before renaming in 1972) which was renamed Winland Investment in January 1973. Winland chaired by Wong Che-Keung went public on the Kowloon Stock Exchange on the same month through issuance of 9 million shares at $1 apiece underwritten by the Liu Chong Hing Bank and Oriental Finance. The IPO was 20 times oversubscribed.
In April 1975, the Communists captured Saigon and the Wong family’s properties in South Vietnam were seized. In December 1975, Huynh Tho died at the age of 77 at the HK Sanatorium in HK and was survived by 5 sons and 7 daughters. (WKYP, 1975-12-16)
In 1982, King’s Dyeing, which was 17% controlled by Winland, applied to build a new factory at the Tai Po Industrial Estate that year. At the time, 60% of Winland’s revenues came from rental income, mostly from King’s Dyeing Factory. (KSEN, 1982-7-31) In 1983, Chow Sau-ting (周修彤), the managing director of Regal Star Garments (麗星製衣廠, incorporated in 1975, dissolved in 1996) joined the board of Winland.
By mid 1980s however, King’s Dyeing which had moved into nylon and synthetic fancy wrap knitted fabric (Directory of HK Industries, 1985) was in trouble and in May 1986, Winland agreed to support King’s and write off the $30.9 million in rent and loans that was owed by King’s, which represented 41% of its assets at the time. (TKP, 1986-5-21) Despite this, King’s Dyeing went bankrupt in July of the same year. According to reports, the firm started paying its staff late in 1985 but never missed a payment so the bankruptcy came as a surprise to many. The firm employed over 400 workers at the time, many of whom had worked with the factory since its inception in the 1960s. (WKYP, 1986-7-27)
In August 1986, Winland reported losses due to the collapse of Kings of $21.1 million for the six months ending June 1986, nine times the losses from the same period in the previous year. As a result, no dividends were declared and Wong Che-keung as chairman had engaged the surveyors Knight Frank Kan & Baillieu to assess the value of its Kwai Chung property which was appraised at $88 million. (TKP, 1986-8-19) In August 1986, China Resources stepped in to acquire the machinery of King’s to continue its dyeing operations and renewed its lease with Winland with promises to keep its 400 workers employed. (WKYP, 1986-8-22). In December 1986, King’s Dyeing Factory (1986) Ltd to assume the operations of the factory.
In June 1988, Winland began legal proceedings to take back the Kwai Chung property. (TKP, 1988-6-21) In March 1989, Winland agreed to pay $78 million to King’s Dyeing (1986) Ltd to end its lease for the Kwai Chung site, of which $19 million was paid upfront and the remainder payable when King’s moved out. The liquidators of King’s also agreed to cancel its claim of $17 million against Winland as part of the settlement. (TKP, 1989-3-29)
In December 1989, Winland mortgaged its Kwai Chung property with China Resources for $110 million in order to repay one of its creditors (TKP, 1989-12-30) In June 1990, Chim Pui-chung’s HK Macau Development acquired 25% of Winland for $27 million or 9.11 million shares at $3 per share (TKP, 1990-6-11) In February 1991, HK Macau Development sold its entire stake in Winland for HK$129 million., netting a profit of $45 million. (TKP, 1991-2-22)
In June 1991, Winland chairman M.K. Tan (陳文裘, pro-Beijing accountant and son of J.M. Tan) announced the re-development of the former King’s Dyeing site at 88 Lei Muk Shu Street which occupied 78000 sq ft. Construction cost was estimated at $400 million with total square footage of 1 million when completed (TKP, 1991-6-22) The building was opened as Riley House (達利中心) in 1992. As for Winland, it was renamed China Resources Enterprises in 1992 after it came under the control of China Resources and was renamed China Resources Beer in 2015. King’s Dyeing & Weaving Factory Ltd was dissolved in 2001 while King’s 1986 was dissolved in 2002.
Perfecta Dyeing Printing & Weaving Works (振裕染印織造廠)
As King’s and Corona exited the fabric and corduroy business in the 1980s, Perfecta Dyeing Printing & Weaving under the management of another family member Wong Yuk-tung (黃旭桐) emerged as one of the four largest dyeing mills in HK. The eldest son of Huynh Tho, Yuk-tung founded Perfecta in 1971 and according to his younger brother John, he was extremely hardworking, often working 7 days a week.
In 1980, Yuk-tung expanded into garment and incorporated Morella Enterprises which was renamed Via Hongkong Ready-to-Wear Co (昌泰製衣廠) in 1987 and Cheong Tai International Holdings in 1998. Cheong Tai owned Cheong On Garment in Guangzhou and Cheong Wah Garment in Tanzhou.
In 1988, Perfecta established a joint venture with the Guangzhou Textile Bureau in Guangzhou. By 1991, Perfecta had between 500-999 employees and operated out of the Edward Wong Industrial Centre in Kowloon (Directory of HK Industries, 1991)
Supported by his son Thierry Wong Kou-kian (黃炯堅), Wong Yuk-tung went big into China in the 1990s. In 1992, he through Silver Yield Industries (銀潤實業, incorporated in 1988) established Panyu Tanzhou Perfecta Spinning Weaving & Dyeing Co (番禺潭洲振裕紡織染印) in Panyu and over the next five years invested over US$13.8 million into the venture. Over the next decade, the firm became a vertically integrated textile conglomerate in Panyu with annual export sales of $600-700 million to the US and Europe and over 5 million square feet of factory space with over 3500 workers. By 2001, Perfecta was one of the top 500 exporters and top 50 dyeing and weaving companies in China.
In 2004, Perfecta together with fellow HK weavers Datsun Weaving Factory (捷成布廠) and Fung Fat Knitting Manufactory (逢發織造) sponsored Cotton USA’s “East Meets West” collection designed by students of Edinburgh College of Arts and made by the three firms which were displayed in London, Paris (Texworld’s Cotton USA booth) and Hong Kong (fashion show at Cotton USA’s Cotton Day promotion). Wong Yuk-tung also acquired 115 cemetery sites at Da Peng Bay (see article on Chow Yau) as investments via Bright Success Management prior to 2007.
Troubles however began in the mid-2000s due to mismanagement and coupled with a fire that broke out in September 2007 which suspended production for six months and the financial crisis, Perfecta sunk into deep trouble in 2008 when a group of banks including Bank of China, Chong Hing Bank, Dah Sing Bank, DBS and Hang Seng seek to recover the HK$120 million that they have lent to the firm. Unable to meet its obligations, Perfecta closed its factories in June 2008 and was ordered to be wound up in June 2009. Wong Yuk-tung passed away in 2014.
Today, the Wong family’s entrepreneurial tradition is continued by Yuk-tung’s younger brother John Huynh, the founder of a sourcing firm in Hong Kong. Born and raised in Saigon until the age of 11, John graduated from the University of Toronto and started his career selling fabrics but later moved into premiums and other lifestyle products such as bags and shoes. After Vietnam re-opened, he went back for business and also sourced products from Cambodia and Myanmar.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 25th May 2020.
Related Indhhk articles:
include King’s Dyeing and Weaving Factory – an initial article on the company posted in 2015
- King’s Dyeing and Weaving Factory – an introductory article first posted in December 2015
- Kings of Denim – Chip Tak, Tai Fong and Kong Sun
- There was something about “Hong Kong Old Mary” – A Transpacific Fortune Built on Trust
- Chow Deuk Sang and Aurora Chow
- The Hongkong Cotton-Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing Company Ltd 1898 -1914
- Ng Yue-kwong (吳裕光, 1902-1977) and Ng Yee Hing Weaving & Dyeing Factory (吳義興織印染製衣廠)
- The Ngai brothers of Yuen Hing Weaving & Dyeing Works (元興織染廠) and the CMA
- The Tales of the Two Smart Shirts – Standard Shirts Dyeing, Weaving & Finishing Mills and Smart Shirts Manufacturers Ltd
- Woo Ping (胡炳) – Weaving and Real Estate Pioneer
- King of Towels: Lee Yiu-wah (李曜華) and Hop Hing (1950) Weaving Factory (合興毛巾織造廠)
- A History of the Wong Family Textile Business – Part One: Life in Shanghai
- A History of the Wong Family Textile Business – Part Two: Life in Hong Kong