But before he made Ho Macao, he had to do it himself.
Born in 1921, Ho had hard times when his father fled to Saigon after his job collapsed in the late 1920s and left that side of the family’s lack of money. Soon, II. World War II broke out.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Britain and America declared war on Japan. The Japanese army invaded the British Hong Kong colony, where the city fell on Christmas Day, despite severe resistance.
Working as an airstrike officer, Ho threw his uniform out of fear of Hong Kong’s domination, recalled in Jill McGivering’s “Macao Reminded” book.
But unlike the thousands of people who died of starvation, war or the Japanese, Ho had options.
His great uncle was Sir Robert Hotung, the rich Eurasian comprador, the first Chinese to live at the Summit of Hong Kong, a wealthy region where only Westerners were allowed to live.
In the 1940s, Sir Robert lived in Macau and at the age of 20 invited Ho to the Portuguese colony where he was waiting for a wealth of opportunity.
In the 1990s, Ho told historian Philip Snow, who wrote a book about the fall of Hong Kong and the Japanese occupation, “I made a lot of money from the war.”
That’s how he did it.
Macau: City of Peace
In the early 1940s, Macao, most of which was under Japanese control, found itself in a unique position in the Asian theater.
Portugal remained neutral in the war until 1944, and therefore Macau was also considered a neutral zone. Colonial Portuguese Government Gabriel Maurício Teixeira and only Dr. The enigmatic Dr. known as Lobo. It was directed by Pedro José Lobo.
However, Japan controlled the seas and ports around Macau. So Macao had to cooperate with the Japanese to allow food and ingredients to enter colony. For Teixeira and Lobo, there was a delicate balance between maintaining the neutral integrity of the region and avoiding open cooperation with the Japanese.
War-time conditions were difficult in Macao. Food supply was short, inflation was widespread, and the colony had to deal with an increasing number of Chinese and European refugees. Smuggling and black market developed.
To solve this problem, Lobo founded the Macao Cooperative Company (CCM), and Lobo asked Sir Robert Hotung if he could trust someone to work as the company Secretary.
Sir recommended Robert Ho.
CCM was the most important institution in Macao during the war – the organization that fed the colony. His main role was to keep Macao economically alive, as well as nurture himself and balance the delicate relationship with the Japanese.
One third belonged to Lobo, one third belonged to Macao’s richest Portuguese families, and the last third belonged to the Japanese Army.
Ho knew the setup when he joined.
In an interview with Financial Times’s Simon Holberton more than half a century later, Ho said: “I was responsible for a swap system, I helped the Macao government exchange machinery and equipment with the Japanese in exchange for rice, sugar, beans.
“Then I was a semi-government official. I became an intermediary.”
As CMM Secretary, Ho allowed Lobo to keep feeding Macao by swapping everything the island has to offer.
This was not an office job. Ho had to travel by boat regularly with payments to pick up the goods and return it to Macao. His job included stealing Portuguese officials, the Japanese army, triple gangs, and various groups of China.
In his memoirs, Ho reminded that his first and most urgent task was to learn Portuguese and Japanese because his job was to trade between the two.
In wartime Macao, there is a factor that dares Ho’s life. Sailing along the southern Chinese coast and around Hainan Island between French Indo-Chinese and Macau meant rice, vegetables, beans, flour, sugar and other materials, avoiding pirate gangs and your supplies on the outbound voyage. .
Nationalist Chinese or Communist guerrillas were equally eager to provide goods or cash themselves, and many saw CCM’s activities as cooperation with the enemy.
According to historian Geoffrey Gunn, Japanese naval vessels were known to potted in all kinds of civilian crafts, according to historian Geoffrey Gunn, American and British submarines are obliged to sink any vessel they think they deal with the Japanese.
According to Joe Studwell, who has conducted many interviews with his Ho family partners for his book “Asian Godfathers”, during this period, he opened a kerosene factory when public fuel sources were running low.
Towards the end of the war, America – worried that Japan could completely take over Macao and use it as a base to defend South China and Hong Kong – in early 1945, it bombarded Macao’s gas terminal to reject its supply to the Japanese navy and air force .
The attack that destroyed Macao’s other kerosene source made Ho accidentally necessary and extremely rich for Macao’s constant work.
After the war, Ho was criticized for collaborating with the Japanese.
But Macao’s wartime neutrality has always been subjected to Japanese influence – especially after the fall of Hong Kong. And in 1943 when Tokyo asked for Japanese consultants to be set up to supervise Macao, a virtual Japanese guardian was set up on the island. Contact was inevitable. Ho claimed he had taught English to Colonel Sawa, head of the Japanese military secret police in Macao.
However, China’s Nationalist government, which has been violently opposed to Tokyo since 1937, has accepted the trades of Ho and CMM as treacherous and supporting Japan’s war against China.
Chinese officials tried to arrest Ho for cooperation, but the Portuguese colonial police protected him, according to the initiative’s own statement. By the end of 1945, Ho was very settled for Macao’s economy, for the Portuguese administration to deliver itself to China.
Ho asked in his defense when he asked why he should work with the Japanese for his treatment of the Chinese, and he told him “it was an order of the Portuguese government” and without food, the people of Macao would die of starvation. . ”
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Then in 1942 he married the daughter of a rich Portuguese family and gave him protection and social position. Third, he collected a fortune and was a millionaire until his 24th birthday. Fourth, he set up business in rice trade, kerosene and construction.
In the weeks after the Japanese surrender in August 1945, Ho returned to Hong Kong and made strategic investments, such as buying a boat, to start the first post-war ferry service between the two colonies.
He had cash, positions, family and good friends in useful positions.
Prepared to rebuild Macao and invest heavily in post-war Hong Kong. In memory of the Ho era, he wrote: “Macao was heaven during the war.”
Ho had a very good war as they say.
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