The Hongs Controlled the Plastic Manufacturing Industry in the 1950s and 1960s

In the 1950s, apart from engaging in raw material business at Yuen Hing Hong Co. Ltd, Lam also ran a few plastic factories and met with clients frequently to obtain orders. Lam’s fine reputation in the plastic manufacturing industry helped him develop his business. Foreign-made toys generally did not register for trademark patent at that time, resulting that the Hong Kong manufactures simply replicated the design of foreign toys in the same way as the Japanese replicated German design. Local toy manufactures did not speak much English and so they replied on ‘hongs’ (exporters) heavily to find orders of export. Each time when a hong received the visit of a client from overseas, they would notify the local manufactures and arrange them to meet the clients at the hong’s office. The manufacturers would bring sample products to show to the clients. Lam spoke fluent English, which was his competitive advantage over his competitors in the industry. Most of his clients came from the UK and the US. The Americans specifically imported plastic goods for large retail stores such as K-mart and Wal-mart. It was a standard practice for the hong’s employees to get rebate from manufacturers in the early years. If they didn’t receive satisfactory rebate, sometimes these hong’s agents disclosed the sample design of this manufacturer to another competitor. This was known as ‘order transfer’. Lam recalled one occasion when he witnessed such transfer unfairly:
One of the products that Lam made was making good deals, but in one occasion, a deal was called off because the hong tried to suppress the selling price. A sales agent under Lam passed this product sample to another factory, which put this design into production as promoted by the hong to the importer client. When this action was finally revealed, Lam decided not to work with the hong again and demanded the hong to settle the dispute by:
1) Calling off the transaction with the importer client;2) Arranging placing the order with Lam’s factory again;3) Destroying the sample products that were leaked out.
The hong accepted the terms, as Lam pledged to take this case to the court if they did not do so. Lam never hired that salesperson again because he breached the rules. Even though there were no legislations regulating trademark patent, Lam thought he had a strong ground to bring an indictment against that hong. Lam also told his fellow industrialists about this inappropriate act which the hong used to work with. Lam believed that manufacturers at the early stage of post-war industrialization were not well educated and therefore were easily manipulated by the hongs. They encountered difficulty prosecuting for the hong’s liability when an ‘order transfer’ happened. A Jewish client had said heavy words to a factory owner, accusing the owner for asking unreasonable prices. Lam mobilized his industrial partners to boycott this Jewish hong. Lam could not tolerate any breach of copyright. He once turned his collaborative partners in to the authorities for counterfeiting two trademarked products, setting a precedent in the toy industry. As of result of Lam’s impartiality, he was well respected by his clients. Up till now, he had trained more than 30 of his staff to start their own businesses.

Company Forward Winsome Industries Limited
Subject Industry
Duration 16m32s
Language Cantonese
Material Type
Source Hong Kong Memory Project Oral History Interview
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. LKF-LT-SEG-035
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