Monday, 2 July 2012

Choo Cheeng Khay 朱睛溪

CHOO CHEENG KHAY
Choo Cheeng Khay was born in 1868 in Penang to Choo Hoon Siew. Choo Hoon Siew who was born in China, was then a successful trader plying from Penang to Kedah thence to Aceh. In 1888, Choo Cheeng Khay left Penang for Kuala Lumpur and commenced business in partnership with his old schoolmate. His business thrived and few years later the partnership was dissolved. Choo Cheeng Khay later joined Loke Yew as a manager of the Attap Farm, leased from the government. When the farm lease was superseded by the government, he became assistant manager of Loke Yew’s infamous firm, Tong Hing Loong (Kuala Lumpur branch). At the same time, he acquired lime-kilns at Kuala Lumpur and later in partnership he ventured into tin mining at Kajang. His two-year experiment in mining business was a success, where he acquired more mining lands at Sungei Besi. He named his mines as Old Blondin, as a mark of the use of Blondin apparatus into mining activity. Where, he was among the first miners in the Malay States to use that quarry equipment. In order to manage his mining interest, he founded a company named after him with an estimated capital $40,000. The company capital value was too trifling to attract investors, and due to Choo Cheeng Khay’s insistence, the capital remained at that meagre value. Thus, Choo Cheeng Khay was left to run the business on his own expense. Nothing daunted, he acquired another mine at Sungei Krayong, Cheras known as the New Blondin, this time instead of using the Blondin apparatus, he applied the open-cast system to cast tin ore. With this new mine, he approached back the old shareholders, with the hope they would invest in his new mine, despite all the persuasions, they refused his offer. The Sungei Krayong mine was later closed down in 1913. By the age of 40 years, Choo Cheeng Khay was already a well-established businessman in Kuala Lumpur. In 1907, he was unanimously elected as the honorary secretary of the Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce. However, shortly afterwards he vacated his post in order to go for a business trip in China and Japan, where he planned to venture in timber business in Manchuria. In his later life, Choo Cheeng Khay became a contractor and founded the Choo Cheeng Khay & Sons Limited, a property developer firm at Birch Road, Kuala Lumpur. Choo Cheeng Khay was famed for being a staunch supporter of the anti-opium movement. On 3 November 1906, he co- founded the Selangor Anti-Opium Society, and had been generously helped the opium addicts to eradicate their smoking habits by giving free anti-opium decoctions. His devotion to the movement was further proved when he leased his house at 8 Weld Road to the Anti-Opium Society. In 1907, there were more than 400 patients cured of the habit of opium smoking and following with the success, it was reported that more than 2,000 patients seek treatment at the Society per day. Choo Cheeng Khay was also active in promoting education, where he had financially helped the establishment of several schools in Kuala Lumpur including being a co-founder of a prominent Chinese girls’ school, where many rich Chinese families in Kuala Lumpur sent their daughters to have Chinese education. In 1914, he retired from business affairs, and three years later he made a world-tour. It was in England, Choo Cheeng Khay thought that he will die soon, so he bought a special oak coffin which cost him £50. The coffin was kept in a room of his home in Gurney Drive, Penang. It was only after 42 years the coffin was made to use, when he died in June 1959 in Kuala Lumpur. He was buried at Mount Erskine, Penang. Choo Cheeng Khay lived most of his life in Kuala Lumpur and returned to Penang in his final two and a half years of life. In 1917, he built a spacious bungalow for his family at Birch Road, Kuala Lumpur. Choo Cheeng Khay was the Vice-President of the Selangor Anti-Opium Society, and member of Yin Han Club, Penang, Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce and many other clubs and associations in Selangor and Penang. One of his sons, Choo Thiam Khin was a Managing Director of Choo Cheeng Khay & Sons Ltd in 1964, he married Rosalind Wong Yuet Hing and they had one son (Choo Kook Yin) and two daughters (Choo Hooi Peng & Choo Hooi Sim). The family residence was then shifted to 104 Choo Cheeng Khay Road, Kuala Lumpur.

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