Kwoon Kwen Metal Ware (冠群金屬製品廠)
York Lo: Kwoon Kwen Metal Ware (冠群金屬製品廠)
Left: Kwoon Kwen ad in 1955 (HK Pun U District Association); Right: Kwoon Kwen founder Li Yan (HK Pun U District Association, 1959)
Kwoon Kwen Metal Ware, a leading manufacturer of luggage locks and other metal products, was founded in 1948 (although as a firm it was not incorporated until 1965) by Li Yan (李潤, 1899-1972), also known as Li Yan-fong (李潤恍) and his sons Li Sze-king (李思敬) and Lee Sze-kung (李思恭) and was also named after him as his alias was Li Hok-Kwoon (李學冠). Natives of Falong in Panyu (Pun U) in Guangdong province, Li Yan came to HK before the War where Sze-king was born in 1931. When the Japanese occupied HK in 1941, the family moved back to Panyu and returned after the War was over in 1945.
Li Sze-king was still a 17 years old student when he helped his father to start Kwoon Kwen and the firm quickly made a name in the industry with its “KK” brand of luggage locks. In the mid-1950s, business began to take off after Sze-king partnered up with an American businessman who helped Kwoon Kwen broke into the US market.
In 1958, production was disrupted at Kwoon Kwen when they were forced to move out of its original factory at 16 Praya Street in Shau Kei Wan by its landlord and only received HK$10000 in compensation. As a result, Li Sze-king expressed his opinions at a CMA forum urging the government to provide more factory space for local manufacturers. (WKYP, 1958-9-11)
In January 1962, Li Sze-king married Fong Mei-yuk (方美玉) and the wedding banquet was attended by over 500 guests at the Ying King restaurant in Wanchai. (WKYP, 1962-1-11)
Left: Li Sze-king (HK Pun U District Association, 1971); Kwoon Kwen ad in 1967 (HK Pun U District Association)
Based on the ad above, by 1967 Kwoon Kwen had four factories in Hong Kong – the main factory at 65 Nam On Street in Shau Kei Wan, the HK branch factory at 9-11 Tai Tak Street in Shau Kei Wan, the first Kowloon branch at 265-267 Shun Ning Road in Sham Shui Po and the second Kowloon branch at 350-360 Fuk Wing Street in Sham Shui Po (current listed address for Kwoon Kwen).
In 1969, Kwoon Kwen Ying Enterprises (冠群英企業) was established to engage in property investment. In May 1972, Li Hok-kwoon died at the age of 73 and was survived by his wife Kwok Yuet-ho and four sons and one daughter. His funeral was attended by over 1000 mourners including “Needle King” C.C. Yin (see article) and fellow Panyu native and solicitor Ko Fook-sun. (KSDN, 1972-6-1)
Over the years, Kwoon Kwen had filed for at least three patents, all which assigned to the firm by Li Sze-yee (presumably a brother of Li Sze-king). This included one for a lock mechanism in 1975, a combination lock in 1980 and an apparatus for collection and disposal of animal waste in 1990.
When China opened to foreign investors in 1978, Kwoon Kwen was one of the first businesses from HK and Macau to invest in the Li family’s native Panyu. In the early 1990s, Li Sze-king donated $500,000 towards the construction of a hospital in his native Falong and in 1999, he donated $1 million towards the expansion of the Falong Middle School. For his contributions to his native Panyu, Li Sze-king, who was life honorary president of the HK Pun U District Association, was named honorary citizen of Panyu in 1993 (redesignated as honorary citizen of Guangzhou in 2000 along with his son) and served as a member of the CPPCC of Panyu from 1988 to 2000.
In 1994, Kwoon Kwen established its factory in Panyu with Sze-king’s son Li Man-keung in charge. Man-keung went to Canada to study at the age of 18 in 1985 and joined Kwoon Kwen after graduation in 1991. He helped the family invest in a gold mine in Gansu province in the 1990s and when the water utility in Falong went into cash flow issues in 1998, he formed Baolai Water Co in partnership with the town government of Falong to over the plant and received 40 years of operating rights. Over the years, the family has invested over $40 million into the venture.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 3rd July 2020.
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