But Ho had to make himself before making Macau.
Born in 1921, Ho’s family was devastated when his father fled to Saigon. Shortly thereafter, World War II began.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Britain and the United States declared war on Japan. The Japanese army invaded the British colony of Hong Kong where the city fell on Christmas Day despite fierce resistance.
Ho, who worked as an air raid warden, dropped his uniform for fear of being executed because Hong Kong came under Japanese rule, he recalled in Jill McGuire’s book “Macau Reminishers.”
But there was an alternative to the war or the starvation at the hands of the Japanese as opposed to the thousands who died.
His great uncle was Sir Robert Hutung, a wealthy Eurasian comrade, he was the first Chinese man to live above the peaks of Hong Kong, only Westerners were allowed to stay there.
In the 1940s, Sir Robert was living in Macau and invited 20-year-old Hoque to join him in the Portuguese colony where the wealth of opportunity awaited.
In the nineties, 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.”
Here’s how he did it.
Macau: City of Peace
In the early 1940’s, Macau also placed itself in a unique position in the Asian theater, with much of China under Japanese control.
Portugal was neutral in the war until 1944 and Macau was also considered a neutral territory. The colony was ruled by the Portuguese governor Ma Gabriel Mauricio Teixeira, and the magician Dr. Pedro Jose Lobo, simply known as Dr. Lobo.
Japan, however, controlled the seas and ports around Macau. This meant that Macau had to cooperate with the Japanese so that food and supplies could enter the colony. For Taxira and Lobo, there was a fine balance between maintaining the neutral integrity of the region and avoiding ultimate cooperation with the Japanese.
The wartime situation in Macau was short of tough food supplies, inflation spread and the colony had to deal with a growing number of Chinese and European refugees. Smuggling and black market are rich.
To solve this problem, Lobo Macau created the Co-operative Society (CCM) and Lobo asked Sir Robert Hutang if there was anyone he could trust to act as the company’s secretary.
Sir Robert Ho proposed.
The CCM is arguably Macau’s most important organization during the war – the one that fed the colony. Its main role was to keep Macau economically alive, to be able to feed itself, and to balance the delicate relationship with the Japanese.
It was one-third owned by Lobo, one-third owned by a wealthy Portuguese family in Macau, and the final third was owned by the Japanese army.
Ho knew the setup when he joined.
Half a century later, in an interview with Simon Holberton of the Financial Times, Ho said: “I was in charge of a barter system, helping the Macau government to exchange machinery and equipment with the Japanese in exchange for rice, sugar and beans.
“I was a semi-government official then. I was middle class.”
As secretary of the CMM, Ho was approved by Lobo to feed Macau with some of the island’s offerable barriers.
It was not an office job. Hoke had to travel regularly by boat to pick up the goods and bring them back to Macau. His job involves playing for the Portuguese authorities, the Japanese military, the Triad gang and various Chinese teams.
In his memoirs, Ho reminded that his first and foremost task was to learn Portuguese and Japanese because his job was to seize between the two.
Hoye’s life in wartime Macau has an element of courage. Pirate gangs loading rice, vegetables, beans, flour, sugar and other supplies between French Indo-China and Macau on the South China Sea and around the island of Hainan should be avoided to take your gold abroad and deliver it to your interior.
Nationalist Chinese or communist guerrillas were equally interested in supplying themselves or providing cash, and many saw the CCM’s activities as collaborating with the enemy.
Japanese ships were known to take potshoots in all manner of civilian craft, and after the war, according to the historical Jeffrey Song, American and British submarines were forced to sink any ship they thought sank with the Japanese.
Around this time, Ho started a kerosene factory while John’s fuel supply was running low, according to Joe Stodwell, who conducted many interviews with Ho family colleagues for his book “Asian Godfathers.”
Towards the end of the war, the United States – concerned that Japan would completely occupy Macau and use it as a base to defend southern China and Hong Kong – bombed Macau’s petrol terminal in early 1945 to deny Japanese naval and aircraft supplies. Tell me.
The attack, by wiping out Macau’s only source of kerosene, inadvertently made Ho both vital to Macau’s continued activities and extremely wealthy.
After the war, Ho was criticized for collaborating with the Japanese.
But Macau’s wartime neutrality has always been under Japanese influence – especially after the fall of Hong Kong. And in 1943, when Tokyo demanded the deployment of Japanese advisers to oversee Macau, a virtual Japanese security system was created on the island. Communication was inevitable. Ho claimed that he had given an English lesson to Colonel Sawa, the Japanese military secret police chief in Macau.
The Chinese nationalist government, which has been waging a fierce war against Tokyo since 193737, considered the business dealings of Ho and the CMM to be treacherous and to support Japan’s war against China.
Chinese authorities tried to arrest Ho for cooperation, but he was rescued by Portuguese colonial police through his own efforts. Towards the end of 1945, Ho was very involved, very important to Macau’s economy in order for the Portuguese administration to hand him over to China.
In his defense, Ho wrote that when he wanted to know why he would work with the Japanese because of their treatment of the Chinese, he claimed that he had been told that “it was the order of the Portuguese government” and that “the people of Macau would starve without starvation.”
After the war
Then in 1944 he married the daughter of a wealthy Portuguese family, giving her protection and social status. Third, he amassed a fortune and became a millionaire on his 24th birthday. Fourth, he founded the rice business, kerosene and construction business.
Within weeks of the Japanese surrender in August 19445, Ho returned to Hong Kong for strategic investments, such as buying a boat to start post-war ferry service between the two colonies.
In useful positions he had cash, location, family and good friends.
He was ready to invest heavily in rebuilding Macau and post-war Hong Kong. In his memoirs, Ho wrote: “Macau was a paradise during the war.”
Ho was, as they say, a very good fight.