Ng Yue-kwong (吳裕光, 1902-1977) and Ng Yee Hing Weaving & Dyeing Factory (吳義興織印染製衣廠)
York Lo: Ng Yue-kwong (吳裕光, 1902-1977) and Ng Yee Hing Weaving & Dyeing Factory (吳義興織印染製衣廠)
Ng Yue-kwong (南洋商报, 4 March 1964, Page 14)
Earlier in the group, several leading weaving mills from the 1940s-60s were covered such as the Ngai brothers’ Yuen Hing, Shum Choy-wah’sKow Yue and Chong Hu-kwong’s Tai Loong. Ng Yee Hing Weaving & Dyeing Factory was another leading weaving mill from the same era and its founder Ng Yue-kwong was a leader in the industry who was cofounder and chairman of the HK Weaving Mills Association (香港布廠商會)and served as director of the Chinese Manufacturers Association for decades.
A native of Nanhai, Ng Yue-kwong was born in 1902 and grew up in Canton. He learned the business of weaving from his father who operated hand looms in Canton and founded Ng Yee Hing in 1937 in HK with 37 mechanical looms and 50 workers. In 1940, he co-founded the HK Weaving Mills Association with his fellow mill owners and helped rebuild the Association after the Japanese occupation in 1946 as chairman.
Countries such as Singapore and the UK were important export markets for Ng Yee Hing but the firm also expanded into the African market in the late 1940s. In April 1948, Ng Yee Hing became the first HK manufacturer to export kikoy, a type of sarong popular in Africa. The production of kikoy required changes to the looms which took several months and for six months, Ng Yee Hing was the only firm in HK making kikoys and enjoyed net profit margins of 10-20% until more competitors and orders came into the picture. Although the firm received favorable tariff treatments from East African markets, the business had declined by the mid 1950s thanks to Japanese competition.
The four story Ng Yee Hing factory was located at 302 Ma Tau Wai Road in To Kwan Wan (current site of Lucky Building) and the Ng family occupies the top two floors. In 1950, Ng Yue-kwong followed the call of Shum Choy-wah and offered one-month training classes in August, September and October to youngsters with average class size of 30-60.
Ng Yue-kwong (first from the left) with left to right: director of the Department of Commerce and Industry, Cheong Ying-chan of Lee Wah Weaving Mill, Lam Kan-sing, T.Y. Wong of HK Spinners and C.K. Chow (WKYP 1962-4-19)
By 1957, the Ng Yee Hing factory occupied 40000 square feet with 192 HK and Japan made looms and over 600 workers. Majority of its outputs were exported to Indonesia （Singapore before the War) and local sales were principally of close-weave check ginghams to shirt factories and table clothes to local restaurants and nightclubs. The firm planned to double its production capacity by purchasing new looms to produce ginghams. (HK Trade Bulletin, 1957)
Ng Yue-kwong (second from left) with fellow garment industry leaders seeing Financial Secretary Sir John Cowperthwaite (centre) off before his flight to Geneva for the GATT meeting. Others are Lam Kan-sing (first from left), Chu Shek-lun (second from right) and C.K. Chow (first from right). Source: Kung Sheung Evening News, 1961-10-23
In 1961, Ng Yue-kwong was elected chairman of the HK Weaving Mills Association again with Loo Shiu (盧兆）and Fok Shu （霍樹）as vice chairmen. At the time, the group represented 130 weaving mills and aggregateloomage of 5000. As the head of the industry group, Ng had two issues at the top of his list at the time – rising protectionism overseas and education. For the first issue, he traveled extensively and worked closely with the HK governmenton trade talks. For the second issue, he contributed HK$15000 in 1962 to the construction of the Association’sprimary school on Prince Edward Road which was an initiative started by the last chairman Chu Shek-lun in 1958. The school building was design by the US-trained architect ChienNai-jen (錢乃仁，1913-2010) and the school was opened in 1964.
Ng Yue-kwong with Sir Tsun-nin Chau (right) at the opening of the Lai Chi Kok Road branch of Canton Trust& Commercial Bank which Chau was the chairman ofin 1961. (WKYP, 1961-10-31)
Outside of Ng Yee Hing, Ng Yue-kwong had invested in other businesses. In the late 1940s, he was also managing director of United Rubber Works, which was incorporated in 1947 but dissolved in 1953. In August 1963, Ng Yue-kwongestablished Singapore Garment Factory Ltd (星嘉坡製衣廠) in Singapore with $1 million in capitalto manufacture underwear, pajamas and pants. The 20000 sqft plant in Bukit Timahwas opened in March 1964 by the Singaporean Minister of Labor and the visiting CMA chairman Chuang Chong-wen who was leading a 58-member trade delegation from HK. Equipped with 400 sewing machines, the plant could produce up to 40000 dozen pieces of garments per year.At first, Singapore Garments imported fabric from Ng Yee Hing in HK but 80000 sqft of land in Singapore was purchased with plans to build a weaving & dyeing mill.
From old newspaper clippings, it was evident that Ng Yue-kwong had a close relationship with the aggressive Canton Trust& Commercial Bank as he attended many of their branch openings in the early 1960s. When Canton Trust collapsed during the banking crisis of 1965, Ng Yee Hing was negatively impacted and the trader Wong To-on (王道安) was brought in as a shareholder. InDecember 1967, Ng Yee Hing was ordered to be shut down by the courts. In January 1968, several hundred workers gathered around the factory and 420 workers filed complaints with the Department of Labor seeking compensation for two months of owed salaries totaling over $100,000. They also went after Belgian Chinese Bank and T.O. Wong & Co which had claims to some of the inventories.
Ng Yue-kwong died in September 20, 1977 and was survived by two wives, three sons and 2 daughters. His eldest son Ng Kam-hoi (吳金海) joined the family business in the 1950s and served on the executive committee of the CMA and the firm’s representative in London in the early 1960s. Kam-hoi’swife is the daughter of Yeung Chung-ming, the proprietor of On Tai Dyeing Factory in Ngau Chi Wan. The two younger sons both studied at St. Louis University in the US. Although he was no longer a major industrialist, his funeral was well attended by leaders of HK industry and per his wishes all proceeds from his funeral went to the HK Weaving Mills Association scholarship funds.
Ng Yue-kwong (right) and Chu Shek-lun unveiling the foundation stone of the HK Weaving Mill Association Primary School in 1964 (TKP, 1964-5-17)
Trade Bulletin, HK Department of Commerce and Industry, 1957
Far Eastern Economic Review, 1954
華僑日報, 1950-10-13 , 1961-02-07 , 1977-09-25
大公報, 1968-01-29, 1962-05-19
香港工商日報, 1958-02-17, 1952-09-20
This article was first posted on 7th September 2018.
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