Ship Street Renewal
The roots of Hop Yuen (Holdings) Ltd were long and deep in Ship Street, Wanchai, dating back to when the area around was a fishing port, and where sailors normally docked and went to pray in a temple for peace of mind once they jumped on shore.
Mr. Tse Yiu Wah, marked the history book of the company not just as its founder, but also as a living symbol of diligence, perseverance and integrity to each and every member of his family. Migrating to Hong Kong in the early part of the 20th century, not with much luggage, but along with plenty of skills and passion as a carpenter, he moved on to establish himself as a reliable constructor and also the first-ever Chinese property agent conceded with the right to build properties as early as from 1914.
The story of the Tse family will not be complete without a recognition of the unfailing endeavors in lobbying for an ultimate decision to retain the four-storey structure at No. 18 Ship Street, even if it was standing in the way of a notable district redevelopment plan announced in 2002. It was one of the three built by Mr. Tse Yiu Wah, whilst the other two were sitting at No.6 and No.12 Ship Street.
It was a passionate desire backed by deep-rooted family sentiments that had driven the lobbying efforts so hard and for so long that in hindsight it still seemed an experience of yesterday, despite the decades in between. Today the building standing proudly at No.18 Ship Street has not only ingrained in its fabrics the living memories of the Tse family, from generation to generation, it has also been a standing testament to the conservation of heritage value that has lived and grown with Hong Kong.
Hop Yuen Construction (合源建築): A Century of Building in HK
While many construction companies covered earlier in the group have faded into history, Hop Yuen Construction is still going strong after over 105 years of continuous operations. The firm is perhaps best known for its original building at 18 Ship Street in Wanchai, which was successfully preserved thanks to the lobbying efforts of the family during a period of major urban re-development in the district.
Hop Yuen was founded in 1914 by TseIu-wah (謝耀華, also spell Yiu-wah), who came to HK from his native village in the early 20th century with not much possessions but skills and passion as a carpenter and over time became a builder. The same year he founded Hop Yuen, he also became the first Chinese property agent conceded with the rights to build properties on Ship Street in Wanchai and over time, he built three shophouses on the street – no. 6, no. 12 and no. 18, the last one built in 1937.
Tse Yiu-wah was involved with the HK Building Contractors Association from the early days and Hop Yuen’s membership number was 42. His wife gave birth to 2 sons and 8 daughters and lived to over 90 years old. In 1967, her sons organized a large banquet at the Ying King restaurant in Wanchai to celebrate her 91st birthday which was attended by many from the Tse Clansmen Association and also figures from the construction and real estate industry such as Chan Kwok-ping from Wah Ying Cheong and others covered earlier in the group such as Chan Wing-ming and his brother in law from Joy Fat Construction and Chung Cheu-kee and his sons (see articles).
Tse Yiu-wah was succeeded at Hop Yuen by his two sons – Tse Noon-wing (謝暖榮) andTse Wai-yin (謝偉賢). Noon-wing inherited 18 Ship Street while Wai-yin inherited no. 6 and the eldest daughter of Yiu-wah who was single inherited the property at no. 12.
Tse Noon-wing married Wong Mee-kuen in 1939 and his family worked and lived in the 4-story building (used to be the tallest on the street)on 18 Ship Street with himself and his wife living on the third floor, their 8 children on the fourth floor, his mother on the second floor and Hop Yuen’s office on the ground floor. As 18 Ship Street only had 450-700sq ft per floor and had around 20 people (including 5 domestic helpers and employees of Hop Yuen) under the same roof at one time, the building was crowded and always bustling with activities. Outside of business, Tse Noon-wing was deputy supervisor of Tse Clansmen Association and director of Chiu Lun Association.
Noon-wing’s eldest son TseSik-yan (謝錫恩) pursued a career in education after graduating from HKU, Cambridge and University of London and served as head of biology for Queen’s College and principal of the Sir Ellis Kadoorie Secondary School in West Kowloon and is chairman of the HKU Alumni Association and founder of the HK Society of Biology. Noon-wing was succeeded at Hop Yuen by his second son David TseSik-hung (謝錫洪), who joined the family business after graduation from HK Baptist College and married Hon Suk-yee(韓淑儀), sister of Dr. Jeremy Hon Kwok-kuen in 1981.
Under the leadership of David, Hop Yuen continued to grow and expand.In 1990, Hop Yuen became an authorized contractor of the MTR Corporation.In 1995, the firm was involved in renovation work for the library of the St Stephen’s College in Stanley. In 1997, the firm did renovation work for the lobby of main branch of the Wing Hang Bank in Central and the same year, Hop Yuen (Holdings) Ltd was incorporated as the holding company for various subsidiaries. In 2001, Hop Yuen was awarded the contract to enhance the above ground entrances of MTR stations across HK.
As part of the urban re-development effort in Wanchai, the government approached the Tse family to take over the buildings on Ship Street. In December 2002, 100 members of the family gathered for a banquet at 18 Ship Street for one last time before handing the building over to the government. The building, which is classified as a Grade II Historical Building by the AMO, has been rented out to restaurants and shops but the family has expressed displeasure about the Hop Yuen sign in the façade being removed and the overall maintenance of the building. In 2003, Hop Yuen Centre opened at 171 Queen’s Road Central as the new office for the Hop Yuen group.
In 2004, Hop Yuen was involved in the re-development work at 28 Peak Road on the Peak. In 2006-08, the firm did the re-development work for St Stephen’s College Preparatory School in Stanley. In 2008, Hop Yuen established a scholarship fund for children of its staff members. In 2009, Hop Yuen was one of the many contractors involved in the construction of the HK Jockey Club International BMX Park. In 2011, the firm was involved in the rail work for MTR in Sheung Wan and the project required it to be completed within 54 hours to minimize disruption to the neighbors.
In 2014, Hop Yuen established the Hop Yuen Charitable Foundation in celebration of its 100th anniversary to support various charities in HK and elsewhere.