Pro-Quality Electronic (寶業電子)

York Lo: Pro-Quality Electronic (寶業電子)

Pro Quality Electronic Image 1 York Lo

Left: PQE chairman Young Chi-wan; Middle: PQE vice chairman Cheng Wai-kuen; Right: PQE director Dominic Cheng

Backed by the Young and the Cheng families behind the Miramar Hotel, Pro-Quality Electronic Co Ltd (hereafter refer to as “PQE”) was one of the largest electronics manufacturers in HK in the 1970s and the early 1980s with over 1500 employees at its peak and its own building in Kwun Tong before its closure in 1982.

As discussed in the article about the father of the HK industry (Peter H.T. Woo), the HK electronic industry (not counting torchlight) began in 1958 with Woo’s Champagne Engineering and by the early 1970s included 300 players employing close to 50,000 workers and was the third largest industry in HK behind textiles and tourism. The new entrants came from a variety of background, ranging from self-made entrepreneurs of the domestic (e.g. Alex Au of Conic) or foreign persuasion (e.g. George Baker of International Service Corp) to local subsidiaries of American electronics firms such as Fairchild and Ampex to firms such as Promotors, Elcap, Meadville and Micro Electronics that were backed by wealthy Chinese families and often founded and led by foreign-educated member(s) of the second generation. PQE belonged to the last group, channeling profits from the second largest industry to the third.

PQE was the brainchild of Paul Chung (鍾彥衡) – little is known about his background but he was the secretary of the HK Electronics Association (香港電子協會) in 1973 and presumably had industry experience before starting PQE. The founding chairman of PQE was Cheng Wai-kuen (鄭偉權, 1916-1992). A native of Zhongshan in Guangdong province, Cheng moved to Vietnam when the Japanese invaded his hometown in the late 1930s. In Vietnam, Cheng started a family and became a successful businessman but given the political instability, he decided to liquidate all his assets in Vietnam in the mid-1950s and moved his entire family to HK where his cousin Young Chi-wan (楊志雲, 1916-1985) was a successful jeweler as the founder of King Fook Jewelry in Central. In 1957, Young, Cheng and a group of investors which include Ho Sin-hang and Ho Tim of Hang Seng Bank formed Miramar Hotel & Investment to purchase the Miramar Hotel on Nathan Road from the Spanish Catholic Mission with the help of Rudy Choy (see my bio about him in the DHKB for details). The timing proved to be excellent with the subsequent tourism boom and Miramar became a listed company in 1970. With their profits from the hotel, the Youngs and the Chengs invested in other businesses such as cinemas with the Metro Theatre (美麗宮戲院) in Shek Kip Mei in 1963. In 1970, the same year when Young Chi-wan co-founded New World Development, he and Cheng Wai-kuen backed the founding of PQE to manufacture high end radios for exports to the US and European markets, starting with 100 workers. Business took off very quickly and by 1972, PQE had 800 workers and was earning healthy profits.

Pro Quality Electronic Image 2 York Lo

Announcement of Young Chi-wan as chairman of Pro-Quality (WKYP, 1973-4-26)

In 1973, PQE had over 1000 workers and orders worth over HK$60 million. Its main factory was located at the South China Factory Building on Wai Yip Street in Kwun Tong and there was also a branch factory at Hung To Road. In April of that year, Young Chi-wan accepted the invitation to become chairman of the firm, while Cheng stayed on as vice chairman and president and Chung continued to run the show as vice chairman and managing director. Young’s eldest son Albert Young Bing-ching (楊秉正, 1938-1995) was listed as director while Cheng’s third son Dominic Cheng Ka-on (鄭家安, 1950-) was director and executive manager.

Pro Quality Electronic Image 3 York Lo

Ng Lik-bor and his wife showing their PQE employee IDs. (Huluculture)   

Paul Ng Lik-bor (吳力波), the current president of the Hoi Bun Heritage Docents Society, a nonprofit which organize hiking tours of local heritage sites, met his wife Wong Wai-wai (黃偉慧) while both were working at PQE in 1975 and both had fond memories of the electronics firm where he worked on repairing radios while his wife worked on tuning. (Ng had also worked at other early HK electronic pioneers such as Atlas, Trans-World and Luks and his oral history interviews could be found on the HK Memory website)

According to former workers, the working conditions at PQE in the mid-1970s were not ideal as many workers fainted from the heat during the summer time and it was also one of the few factories without shuttle bus for its staff. A press report suggested that PQE added healthcare benefits, free meals and shuttle bus service for its employees and the plant was air-conditioned, perhaps to address these issues.

By 1980, PQE reached its peak as it moved into its own 12 story, 120,000 sq ft Pro-Quality Building at 23 Hing Yip Street in Kwun Tong in January. Its employee count exceeded 1500 and the products it manufactured include radio, tape recorders, electric clocks, television sets and video game players. It held PAL licenses from German TV maker Telefunken for manufacturing of color TV and was one of 12 programmable video game licensees of Magnavox in HK (others include Vtech, Conic, Promotors and Radofin)

By 1982 however, business had turned south and by July of the year, the workforce has shrunk down to 370 workers, which were divided into two groups, each working only 3 days per week. In late November, the management of the firm decided to shut down the firm and its plant and PQE faded into history. The firm was officially dissolved in 1995 and the building kept its Chinese name but changed its English name from Pro-Quality to Po Yip Building.

Pro Quality Electronic Image 4 York Lo

News of the closure of PQE in 1982 (Ta Kung Paom 1982-12-1)

Young Chi-wan died unexpectedly in 1985 and his family sold their majority stake at Miramar in 1993 to Henderson Land. As for Cheng Wai-kuen, he moved to Los Angeles in 1975 where his eldest son Dunson Cheng (鄭家發) built Cathay Bank, a community bank he had invested in into one of the leading Asian American banks in the US and served as chairman and CEO of Cathay General Bancorp from 1990 to 2016. Dominic Cheng stayed in HK where he served as a director of Miramar from 1985 to the present and director of King Fook from 1987 to 2017. In 1976, he founded Onflo International Ltd (康富國際), which has been the distributor of Casio Electronics in HK for four decades with a JV in his native Zhongshan to manufacture Casio calculators that was established in 1995. The firm was also a pioneer in introducing microcomputers and video games to the HK and China market in partnership with firms such as HP and Atari. His sister Josephine Cheng (鄭妙勤, 1953-) is a renowned computer scientist and IBM Fellow known for her work on relational database technology.

Additional Sources:

  1. Wah Kiu Yat Po, 1972-7-20, 1973-1-22, 1980-1-30
  2. Kung Sheung Daily News, 1982-11-30
  6. Billboard Jul 15, 1978

This article was first posted on 20th April 2018.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Peter H.T. Woo – Father of the Hong Kong Electronics Industry
  2. Conic – HK Electronics Giant of the late 1970s, early 1980s  
  3. George Baker – an American Pioneer of the HK Electronics Industry
  4. Holga Cameras – Universal Optical Industry / Universal Electronics Industries – production information needed
  5. The Electronics Industry of Hong Kong: an analysis of its growth 1959-1969

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