Citations and Speeches


108th Congregation (1980)

Haking WONG

The Public Orator Professor Peter Bernard Harris, B.A., B.SC. (Econ.), PH.D., D.Litt. (PCE), wrote and delivered the following citation:

Mr. Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Mr. Haking Wong, O.B.E. for the conferment of the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa. Mr. Wong was born in Hong Kong in 1906 and apart from the period 1941-1945 he has spent his entire life in our city.

He is as perfect a Hong Kong 'belonger' (to use a particularly Hong Kong term) as it is possible to envisage. His grandfather came from China but his own parents resided for some years in Thailand until they decided to seek out the better educational opportunities afforded here. Hong Kong then, in those days, was but a village. Mr. Wong can well recall that a visit to Happy Valley would entail meeting everybody who was anybody, with the horse racing an added bonus.

Mr. Wong was educated at St. Stephen's College at a time well before many people here tonight can remember - these were also the years of agonizing depression. He was soon caught up in the swirl of industry, for indeed industrial technology has been his life since the early twenties. With characteristic modesty he will describe himself as utility man, a man of many trades. But, the utility man is the diversified man - and that is what Hong Kong requires. Sir, Dr. Samuel Johnson spoke with warm approval - as I do now - of his best kind of Very sensible man, who perfectly understood common affairs; a man of a great deal of knowledge of the world fresh from life, not strained through books'. Within a few years, Haking Wong was established in the rubber industry and thousands of sports shoes flowed from his Kowloon premises. Rubber, however, did not always have the appropriate amount of 'bounce', so he turned to pioneer new ventures in the as yet embryonic field of electronics. This was a remarkable flash of insight indeed.

But not only electronics captured his imagination; he was involved in other enterprises, not the least being textiles. At one time Haking's Hong Kong factory was the world's biggest producer of that most necessary of tools - the tooth brush. His activities also flowed into the field of ship repairs. By the time that the war broke out, Mr. Wong was one of Hong Kong's more promising entrepreneurs.

Sir, the theme of this citation is diversification: for Mr. Wong was not inclined to invest his entire human capital in one field. Eggs were best not kept in one basket. Very early on therefore, there existed the spirit of the diversifier.

The war years were indeed terrible years for Haking Wong. His industrial enterprises were in ruins; his creativity blunted by the constraints of the invader; his future appeared at best to be problemmatical. Yet, even though the conqueror 'invited' him to continue to produce at the sharp point of the bayonet - he made a calculated, but traumatic, decision to leave Hong Kong.

The year 1941 was a year in which many people learned from the University of Life. There was at that time no other. The world taught us, and books held their peace. Haking Wong found his way to stay for a while in Canton. He stayed in that city, ekeing out a living, putting into effect that undoubted capacity to find a way forward. Per ardua ad astra.

He knew that it would never do to attribute bad management to destiny or fate. Haking Wong now entered the business of feeding people. He took on 'rice'. Canton owes him a tribute: in a besieged town an idealist is one who ensures that if everyone cannot have a full meal, he can at least ensure that everyman has a little. Mr. Chancellor, Hong Kong's post-war reconstruction had to start from the bottom of the trough. If the flesh was a trifle weak, the spirit was more than willing. Haking Wong was the very epitome of the new spirit, as he set to work with others of like-outlook to revive our city state and its community.

George Santayana once said, Sir, that to meet a challenge 'is a deep delight to the blood'. Haking Wong felt the need for a new challenge. One evening, chatting with friends he casually asked what he might do next. What new fields to conquer? Almost like an act of God, the answer lay at his side. For, on a nearby seat, there rested a camera. Almost as if inspired, he asked why not produce cameras? The answer today is seen in his expansion over the whole paraphernalia of commercial optics. That simple Brownie has long been overtaken by sophisticated cameras known the world over as Haking, Halina and Ansco.

The next three years or so were years of much vexation. For Haking Wong had undertaken an experiment the outcome of which could have been a bitter experience had it failed. 'Experience', says Aldous Huxley, 'is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him'. Haking Wong proceeded to teach himself and his partners the rudiments of optics. Science in its purest form operates in this way, from first principles. Mr. Wong then set out to conquer his problems one by one in the applied field. This is the pure milk of technology.

Success did not come at once. For success demands many sacrifices from those who aspire to receive her favours.

The new venture into optics placed considerable strains upon his undoubted powers of creativity, as he taught himself the rudiments of optics and, at a very practical level, upon his pocket-book. I might perhaps be forgiven, if I say that it took him some time to get the focus right and true.

In 1957, he produced a first simple box camera. At that time photography was still in a comparatively formative state. Since that time technology in camera production has made many advances. Haking Wong has become Hong Kong's Henry Ford of the world of camera and optical technology. Yet he was over 50 when he took this leap into the dark - or perhaps we might say more appropriately into the dark room. His speciality was in the production of cameras with the built-in electronic flash in both 110 and 135 formats. Yet soon certain intricate scientific problems emerged. The aluminium casing for cameras, for example, is susceptible to rusting. The cure for such a problem is not easy to find and taxed the best brains. Yet it was solved, with the help of a special knowledge of the chemistry of rust-prevention. He developed refinements associated with shutters, prisms, and lense coating. He also turned to the manufacture of binoculars. Technology which had previously been thought to be the preserve of the West Germans and the Japanese soon became both a Haking and a Hong Kong trademark. Haking Wong had taken on the manufacturing giants and had beaten them at their own game. Through experiment, trial and error, he had taken Hong Kong's industrial prowess into new areas. By definition, diversification refers to the intention to broaden the variety of products or services available. It is one of the most important of all business strategies; one of the most important aspects of decision-taking. It has meant last year a stunning export achievement for optics amounting in value to $500 million. Acknowledgement of Haking Wong's international standing is evidenced by the fact that the Cologne International Fair for photographic and optical equipment (Photokina) has been exhibited the products of Haking Wong for almost two decades.

Mr. Chancellor, no one more than yourself knows that Hong Kong has been interested in diversification of late; Haking Wong has been interested in it for some time. He is already known, Sir, very appropriately as Mr. Diversification, (or in fact from today), as Dr. Diversification.

In 1977, our doctorand was granted the Governor's Award for Hong Kong Design. This was in virtue of the company's superb retractable push-pull stroke built-in camera with its super miniflash. Here is no mere flash in the pan - rather, I suggest, a vision of a zooming future. It is only right and proper that a University which seeks to nurture creativity, should reward it when it manifests itself so close to home.

As a manager he has commanded wide interest and attention. His production assembly line is a textbook lesson in basic economics. Processes are grouped along a vertical principle rather than spread horizontally. From spring clip to shutter, cameras are assembled in one place. Mr. Wong, too, is a model employer, concerned for the welfare of his 'family' of 4,000 plus employees as well as their economic well-being. Haking Wong is Honorary President of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association and a member of the Founders Committee of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries. He is a Director of Tung Wan and of the Po Leung Kuk. He took an early interest in a subject singularly dear to the heart of the University - the education and training of his staff. The Cheung Sha Wan Technical Institute was his brain-child and in September 1977 was in fact renamed the Haking Wong Technical Institute, and this was officially recognized when he received the O.B.E. for his public services.

Sir, for his vision, perseverance and pioneering spirit; for his imaginative and sympathetic approach to his 'family' of working associates and for his conspicuous generosity to higher educa-tion, I call upon you Mr. Chancellor, to confer upon Haking Wong the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.