The curious case of Y.C Liang (CBE)

I've just been involved in an interesting exchange on my blog concerning the old GPO pillars that we discovered had been moved to Kwun Yam Shan inside Kadoorie Farm in Tai Po. Anyway, the chat got quite interesting and I figured it would be nice if any of the local readers on Gwulo can shed some light on to the findings.

These re the pillars I am referring to: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/19043857 and I have noted them before as part as the discussion of this thread: http://gwulo.com/node/2277

Thanks to Roger, who sparked the investigation and found out that the pillars were donated to the farm by a certain Mr Y.C Liang CBE.

Liang's Chinese name is 梁潤昌 (1918- 1979) but seems to have been called Run Chang informally and it turns out that he has a hall named after him at CUHK (and an old people's home run by Tung Wah to which his wife donated a large amount of money).

Anyway, here is what I found out but would love any Chinese readers to fill it out and correct anything I have got wrong because Mr Liang's personal history seems to be quite interesting. It turns out that Liang was some sort of agent for BAAG codenamed Phoenix and he was responsible for some of the liason between BAAG and POW's in various camps. His actions during the invasion/occupation/war are the reason he was awarded a CBE.

I have no idea if any of this is pre-war or post but it looks like he was at some point the Director at Macau Electric, the ex-head of Hang Seng Bank and had various other interested in bullion trading, rice trading, hotels (Roger also discovered he was a director of The Peninsula at some point which directly links him to the Kadoories and could explain the pillar donation to their farm?).

Despite being an exceedingly wealthy man (for whatever reasons) he killed himself in 1979 by throwing himself off somewhere high in Repulse Bay. I believe he is buried at the Catholic Cemetry in Happy Valley.

Curiously one of his large brood also committed suicide in a similar way somewhere around Conduit Road and it seems that another of his sons is the General Manager behind the Macau Dragon ferry company (who have recently gone into liquidation).

So, can any of the Gwulo readers on fill out some of the details of Runchangs life. He certainly seems to have been a bit of an enigma and I would love to find out more.

Any takers?

Phil

[edit: you can see our thread of comments on my blog here: http://orientalsweetlips.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/remnants-of-the-old-kcr-terminus-east-tst/]

Forum: 

Liang was the BAAG agent who, on August 23rd, 1945  delivered to Gimson in Stanley Internment Camp the written authority to administer the government in HK.   Interesting that his CBE was honorary, indicating that he was not a British subject.

Hi, thanks for the reply - are there any English texts that give more details into his life? He sounds like someoen who deserves his own book.

Hi Phil,

I got some bits and pieces while googling.  3 entires so far.

Best Regards,

T

http://blog.yahoo.com/leungpolung/articles/5819  <--- this is a Chinese link, but Liang was mentioned in that book, published by the Lisbon Maru Association of Hong Kong;

http://www.nwd.com.hk/html/download/Report/ar1977e.pdf  <--- a report of a certain board meeting with Liang listed as a director;

http://www.galaxylink.net/~john/paul/memoirsxiii.htm   <---- Paul Tsui also mentioned Liang very briefly in his memoir;

Thanks T - I'll check them out in more detail. Cheers, Phil

[edit: I already saw the Chinese blog entry and I think that is where I gleamed the BAAG reference from. So he was also a director/vice-chairman of New World Development but Tsui refers to him in the wartime as a Solicitors clerk and ex-police reserve. Now, I wonder if this means he was a clerk in a local Chamber or just a clerk at a law firm?].

Hi Phil,

Instead of Google, I tried Yahoo and got these:

http://info.wenweipo.com/index.php?action-viewnews-itemid-22930 This is a short article from Chinese newspaper Wen Wei Po about how Run Chang got rich in Macau.

 

1979年8月16日南北極 (南北極 magazine, 16th August 1979): Bouncing around on the internet I found this reference which reports his death.  You may want to dig up this Chinese language magazine in a library, because the source does not provide a link to those pages.

 

Hope it helps,

breskvar

Breskvar - that's great, many thanks. Phil

Phil - Have you tried Edwin Ride's "BAAG" published by Oxford University Press in 1981?

Jaberu - no I haven't. I'll have a dig around, many thanks for the tip. Phil

Hi Phil,

There are several mentions of him in Philip Snow's book, "The fall of Hong Kong":

  • pg 183: In Macao the true linchpin of British resistance was a Chinese known as Phoenix. In his day-to-day life he was Y. C. Liang, a young businessman who worked as comprador for the local firm of Wong Tai. Under this cover he served as the chief local agent for the BAAG. It was Phoenix who organized the escape routes on which Reeves dispatched Allied workers from Macao to Free China, and which served as the arteries for the BAAG's intelligence work. Some of Phoenix's exploits were mildly spectacular. On one occasion he brought about the deliberate flooding of some bank vaults where he knew vital radio valves to be stored. Handymen in his pay were called in to pump out the water - and took the opportunity to secure the valves.
  • [After the Japanese surrender, the British government in London desperately needed to send a message to Gimson in Stanley to re-establish a British civil administration in Hong Kong, to get in first before any Chinese or American administration was formed.] pg 249: The Foreign Office transmitted these messages to Seymour in Chungking, who in turn passed them on to the BAAG [...] it was only on 17 August that the message got through to an appropriate agent in the form of Phoenix in Macau. Phoenix for his part took several days to get moving, because the sea passages from Macao to Hong Kong were heavily mined; but on 21 August he set off for the colony. On the following day he arrived, and went looking for Gimson with Whitehall's official command to take power in the interval pending the arrival of Harcourt's fleet.
  • pg 250: And 'after a day or two', during which Phoenix made his appearance with the formal orders from Whitehall, the new Acting Governor [Gimson] led his colleagues out of Stanley and set up his long-planned skeleton government in the heart of Victoria, in the former French Mission building.
  • pg 254: On August 23 a young Chinese aged about thirty and 'immaculately dressed in a white silk robe' appeared, like an angel out of the Gospels, at the house of M. K. lo. It was Phoenix, the BAAG agent newly arrived in Hong Kong with his message for Gimson, who had been assigned the additional task of 'prompting local initiative'.

He certainly sounds to have been a remarkable man. I'd be interested to read how he got involved with the BAAG, and decided to take such great risks.

Regards, David

PS found another mention of him in Endacott's 'Hong Kong Eclipse'.

David - excellent, thanks. A fuller picture is beginning to appear. And it looks like you have cleared up my query regarding his Comprador role. It seems for someone who played such a significant role in the post-war future of HK he should have received greater recognition (other than the 'honorary' CBE).

Phil

He's also in Wright-Nooth's Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, where's he called Leung. Wright-Nooth says that in 1946 he was awarded the King's Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom', and he quotes from the citation: 'for services to the escape and intelligence organisation in Hong Kong'.

He also specifies the Repulse Bay Hotel as the building from which both Leung and his son jumped to their deaths. (p.262).

I agree that this remarkable man deserves a book (and a film!)

http://www.kornhill.com.hk/next/magdetails.php?book=4&issue=1124&page=0140680567

In this article in Atnext magazine dated 22 Sept it was mentioned that the demolished 1 Po Shan Road was owned by Y.C. Liang. 

http://gwulo.com/node/9360

Many thanks guys - all of a sudden he seems to be everywhere! :-)

Liang Yun-chang, usually referred to as Liang Chang, was an outstanding agent of the BAAG in Macao during the War. His code name was 'PL' (not 'PHOENIX' who was Dr. Gosano). According to the citation given by the Commnadant of the BAAG, Col. (later Sir) Lindsay Ride, for the award of the King's Medal for Courage in the course of Freedom (usually awarded to outstanding members who were not British national), Liang was first recruited into the BAAG in Dec 1942 and served until 1945 when the War ended. The grounds for the recommendation of award was based on 'valuable service in command of escape & intelligence operation in enemy-held territories' which were Macao & SW Guangdong. He was a trader in Macao at the time.

He came to the notice of the British when he was especially kind to the HK British refugees through providing provisions to them on credits from his shop Wang Tai in Macao. He was also known to have very good connections in the surrounding territories which was valuable to the escape & intelligence operations of the BAAG. He was interviewed by Ride in Kweilin in early 1943 whence he was tasked & returned to Macao. He proved himself extremely efficient & effective. He was able to set up safe escape & communication routes in Forward Area 2 via Samfou (Kaiping) to Kweilin.

By October 1943, PHOENIX (Dr. Gosano) & Mrs. Joy Wilson (who operated out of the British Consulate) could no longer function under Japanese surveillance. The BCG John Reeves had been instructed by the Chungking Embassy to cease his private 'I' operations which were based on his own initiatives, but unwittingly compromising the BAAG operations, indeed suspected to be the cause of many purges of BAAG operatives in Hong Kong who came into contact with the BCG on innocent matters. PHOENIX was asked to handover his team to PL (Liang) who was described by Ride to be completely trustworthy. Eventually in May 1944, PHOENIX was withdrawn & PL took over as head of the small BAAG unit in Macao which included 'NITRAM' (Nelson MA Nai-kwong). His team also operated radio communications onboard a moving junk in the harbour; bought airtime in the Macao radio station to broadcast encrypted messages; generally doing outrageous things right under the nose of the Japanese.

On 17th Aug, after the Japanese surrender on 15th, BAAG received message from the Embassy in Chungking that HM Government directed F. Gimson to assume authority to restore British soveringnty over HK under the Letter Patent pending the arrival of British or Allied forces. This message was delivered by PL (Liang) who travelled to HK (still under Japanese rule) on 22 Aug with Wireless Radio & operator Fung Bei. PL delivered the message personally to Gimson at Stanley, offering Gimson four Soverigns of his own money for his expenses in establishing Provisional Government (which was set up at the French Foreign Mission - today's Highest Court of Appeal). PL continued to shuttle between HK & Macao for relief supplies using ferry boat 'Fat Shan'. (Ref: the series of telegrams concerning the liberation of HK has been deposited by Paul Tsui at the PRO HK MS30)

After the War, Y.C. Liang became a rich businessmen of HK & Macao. He was the substantial shareholder of the HK & Shanghai Hotels Group (The Penninsular Hotel & other assets) as well as operator of one of two HK-Macao ferry & jetfoil services. Anonymously, he was a big charitable donor - apart from donations to universities, he also donated TV sets to HK prisons & public parks. He was awarded CBE in the 70s.