William CHENG (aka BAAG No. 21 / 鄭淮廉 / Cheng Wai-lim / Khan / Mo Lo Cheng) [1913-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

William CHENG (aka BAAG No. 21 / 鄭淮廉 / Cheng Wai-lim / Khan / Mo Lo Cheng) [1913-????]

Names
Given: 
William
Family: 
Cheng
Alias / nickname: 
BAAG No. 21 / 鄭淮廉 / Cheng Wai-lim / Khan / Mo Lo Cheng
Sex: 
Male
Status: 
Deceased
Birth
Date: 
1913-12-05
Birthplace (country): 
Tags: 

Comments

BAAG Agent No. 21 was William Cheng aka Cheng Wai-lim Nick-named 'Khan' and 'Mo Lo Cheng'.  His brother was Agent 12 Percy Cheng who served as his Runner.  Percy's wife, Maizee was also a BAAG agent who was said to have done dangerous work too.  (I have a photo of Percy & hi wife taken in Wai Chow during the War)  

The Chengs were based in Lung Kong but travelled in & out of HK regularly.  Paul Tsui said they were a heavily armed group, operating much like the local guerrillas, aiding Escapees, Downed Pilots and refugees.  Willliam Cheng aided Capt. Scriven from the bandits en route to Wai Chow during his escape in early 1942. 

They were Hakka-Chinese from Jaimaica.  Their very dark complexion and a degree of Afro-look made it convenient to mingle with the Indians at Ma Tau Chung Camp. They were very active agents in many respect.  One main target was the Indians for rescue and intelligence.  William Cheng might also have operated a restaurant in HK (the Paris Cafe?), using it for intelligence collection.  

They reliably reported on enemy troops & installations; connected to the Indian community; secretly listened to radio broadcast from London & the USA; made friends with operators of the Japanese radio station as well as local detectives working for the Japanese.  William was a radio technician before the War.  At their base in Lung Kong, they maintained very good relations with the Pro-Government Guerrila Group of Siu Tak-keung & Siu Tak-keung. They were involved with a joint BAAG-Chinese military operation to get some 41 Indians out from the NT in Feb & Mar 1943.  

In Dec 1943, they reported the downd Japanese transport plane near Lung Kong to AHQ Wai Chow.  Paul Tsui (65) went with Percy Cheng to inspect the wreckage.  Upon noticing the documentations amongst the wreckage, they negotiated the Guerrillas, offering them the arms in exchange for permission to retrieve a bonanza of intelligence from the plane. The vluminous collection included: codes and maps showing enemy postionts, etc...  These were personally conveyed by Major Colin McEwan to Kweilin for analysis & production of intelligence.

Some time in 1943, William Cheng's home in HK was raided by the Kempatei.  However, William & Percy were in Free China and escaped arrests.  William Cheng was awarded the BEM for his service.  He returned to live in Jaimaica after the War.  Percy Cheng might have remained in Mainland China.  Percy's name did not appear on Paul Tsui's list of former BAAG members compiled circa 1951.

 

 

Is there a complete list of BAAG agents? ie their # and name.

thanks.

Elizabeth Ride should have a detailed list.  However, I don't think it is possible to have any complete list since operatives engaged Co-optees of their own forming sub-teams.  A reason why Agent coded identities surfaced in reports would be that they were Leaders or Couriers, not necessarily the original sources who could be Co-optees or simply casual Informants or even Open Sources like news media.  The use of different systems of Numbering or Code names by different Intelligence Officers at different stages of the War also complicated things.  A better practice would be not to include any reference to any source in the Intelligence Reports that were circulated so as to protect their identities or nature of the sources; and to have a separate higher security report with limited circulation on the sources with assessments of each source.  The practice of Single-line Communications also made it quite difficult for anyone to know much of what anybody else was doing. These were done at war time and few were really experienced.  They did their best they could and devise the modus operandi as they went along.  

The Chengs were the sons of the pre war KMT foreign minister, a Trinidad  Chinese married to a creole lady. Percy was heavily involved with the communists in China in the 1930s, and had a most interesting life. I came across him occasionally in HK in the 1970s when he was doing legal aid work, along with another very interesting guy, Bill Lore, a Canadian Chinese who had been Admiral  Harcourt's head of naval intelligence. 

I remember my father had a friend in Hong Kong named Percy Chen ( 陈丕士) who was a Barrister.  He was a prominent member of the Pro-CCP circles; a member of the CCP People's Political Consultative Council.  His was said to have a background in Trinidad.

I think it is possible that it is Percy Chen and not Percy CHENG (鄭) Agent 12 of the BAAG referred to by Ho.  

Yes indeed. But on the other hand I wonder if they are one and the same person.It seems a remarkable coincidence that they were both Afro Chinese, a pretty rare ethnic group in Hong Kong. It is possible that there is more than one romanization of the Chinese character.

Henry Ching writes:

Percy Chen the barrister was the son of a man named Eugene who came from Trinidad.  Percy’s wife was a Russian lady named Mucia.  During the battle she lived with some Indian friends in the flat below us at 9 Village Road, Happy Valley.

I don’t think Percy Cheng and Percy Chen were one and the same.

Wikipedia says that Percy Chen only had one brother who survived childhood, Jack (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Chen), so the similarity in names and backgrounds of Percy Cheng and Percy Chen looks to be coincidence.

Regards, David

Yes David I think you are right, also the use of the (somewhat rude) Cantonese epithet "mo lo" sems to indicate some Indian rather than African ethnic ancestry.

I do not think 'Mo Lo Cha' is necessarily derogatory; although the individual uttering it could have meant it that way.  I believe the word 'Cha', as in 'Ah Cha', stems from the common gesture of approval used by Indians saying 'Oh Yeah' 'Good' etc...  In the past, my Indian friends said they were not offended by it.

Some also say that it came from the word 'Chai' as in 'Chai Yan' (Policeman or Agent) since many Indians served in the HK Police before the War; and there were still many Pakistanis policemen post-War.

I believe 'Mo Lo' has root in Hindu terms in Buddhism.

 

 

This term Is not derogatory in origin, but to my knowledge is often seen as somewhat offensive by Indians. I have always understood it not to be a polite form of address, although hardly a mortal insult. I was once told by a language teacher that Mo Lo is derived from the obsolete English term Moor, which was once commonly used to describe persons of darkish skin.

From the entry for William Cheng in the BAAG Personnel Register, Ride Collection:

Nationality: Chinese, British subject.  Born: 5.12.1913 Santa Cruz, Jamaica BWI.  Occupation: trader. BAAG: July 42 to Dec 45.  Native of Po On.  Height: 5' 7".  Dark complexion, black wavy hari, black eyes.  125 lbs.  Age 34.  Educated at Government School Jamaica, graduating in 1925.  Occupation pre-war: W/T Technician, ZBW and ZEK Stations, 1932-1941.  During hotilities: ZBW and ZEK stations.  After hostilities:  July 1942 joined BAAG as Intelligence Groups leader until now, September 22, 1945.

Citation: “This man was in the service of the BAAG from the latter half of 1942 till the cessation of hostilities.  Even before the formation of the BAAG, one of his men was responsible for the safe conduct of Capt. Scriven’s escaping party through enemy-held territory.  After that, Cheng took an active part in getting Indians out of Hongkong and he has many successes to his credit.  Towards the end of 1943, he happened to be operating in the Lungkong area when a Japanese a/c crashed and with most commen­dable initiative he immediately went to the scene and saved a tremendous amount of documents, some of which turned out to be of the utmost intel­ligence value.  Subsequent to this he organised and ran a large intelligence and E & E Group with considerable success.  From his forward base, he maintained most excellent liaison with the Chinese troops and it was mainly because of this plus his leadership that the evacuation of our Advanced HQs from Waichow was carried out without loss.  There can be no doubt that the guiding theme throughout this man’s long and valuable service was an intense loyalty and devotion to the anti-Japanese cause.”

In 2010, I asked Dr. Raymond Mok, formerly of the BAAG Medical Outpost near Wai Chow, which of the two Cheng brothers was regarded as more important as bAAG agents.  He said definitely William Cheng.