Po保 LAU 劉 (aka Matthew Lau/Matheus Lau/Lau Tze Chun/劉寶/劉為善/劉瑪豆) [1880-1925]
The life of Mr. Lau Po (b. 1878 [1880?] – d. 1925)
Written by Simon [Edward?] Law, Lau Po’s son
Before you commit yourself to accept donation from the “LAU PO EDUCATIONAL FUND,” it might be of interest to you to know something about this man. Lau Po’s father, Lau Yen, was a poor peasant who left his native village of Tong Har in Hoi Ping District during the first revolution by Hung Sau Chuen’s (1851-68) (Tai Ping Tin Kwok). He [Lau Yen] arrived in Macau with his wife and a sister almost penniless. He took whatever job that came his way. Lau Yen became a Roman Catholic shortly after he started working in Macau. He had three children: two boys and a girl, all were born and baptized in Macau. Lau Yen shown his dislike for the Manchu reign by cutting away his pigtail and wearing short hair, an act punishable by death if he was in China at the time.
Lau Po was the elder [sic.] son. He came to Hong Kong when he was a little boy to study English in St. Joseph’s College. He was supported by his aunt who had found a job in a Portuguese family. He became a teacher in his mother school after graduation. Lau Po taught Tsui Yan Sau when he came to study in St. Joseph’s College. It was under these circumstances that these two men met one another and later to team up to start Wah Yan College. Lau Po was transferred to Canton to teach in Sacred Heart College, a branch of the De La Salle Brothers. The school was situated inside the compound of the Cathedral in Canton. Like most educated Chinese of his days, he was involved in revolutionary activities against the Manchu Government. He came back to teach in St. Joseph’s College after his tour of duty in Canton. Because of what he saw and experienced in Canton, he spent all his spare time carrying out anti-Manchu propaganda. He would enlist anyone who was willing to listen to him, and any member of his own family who was old enough was put to some kind of work towards this end. He started a drama club and gave it the name of “Ching Ping Lok.” This name has several meanings. One of which is “when the Ching [Qing] Dynasty topples there will be peace and happiness.” The Kwong Tung province was a hot bed of revolutionary activities, particularly the city of Canton. The Peking authority was taking strong measures to put down these anti-Manchu activities. Strong fisted commissioners were invested with special power to put to death without trial anyone suspected of engaging in revolutionary activities. The revolutionists retaliated by sending suicide squads to attempt on the life of these Manchu officers. One of the best remembered events was the slaughter of Special Commissioner General Fu Gee, who was said to be a cannibal. He boasted that when he took up office in Canton, he would make sure that not one day shall pass without having a cut off tongue of a revolutionist served for lunch and a revolutionist’s heart for dinner. On the day of his arrival in Canton to take up office, he and his entourage were attacked with bombs by the suicide squad led by revolutionist Mr. Wan San Choy. In spite of having hundreds of security guards and his own body guards posted on the route to protect him, General Fu Gee did not live long enough to take office much less to make good his boast. The successful attempt on Fu Gee’s life by the revolutionists was a shock to the Manchu Government. Anti-Manchu sentiments which had been formerly harbored in disguise were now openly expressed by a part of the population in Hong Kong. The authorities in Canton put pressure on the British police in Hong Kong to put a stop to the agitation against the Manchu Government. A list of names of the ring leaders were in the hands of the Hong Kong Police. One day a British police officer whom Lau Po taught the Cantonese dialect showed him a list of names and asked him whether he knew a man by the name of Lau Po and told him that this man was wanted by the Manchu authorities in Canton. Fortunately for him, when he was teaching in Canton, he was known as Lau Tze Chun. In Hong Kong, when dealing with official matters, he used the name of Matthew Lau or Lau Tze Chun. The name of Lau Po was his childhood name that only members of the family and close friends used it. He came to Hong Kong when he was very young and went to study in St. Joseph’s College. He was passed off as a British subject. He had a clean record. Although the police knew he was a member of the revolutionary party, yet since no one came forward to testify that Lau Po and Matthew Lau was the same person, the police did not press the case. Lau Po escaped the law but he was not so lucky with his employer. When the then Bro. Director (generally known as the red bearded man) learned of his anti-Manchu propaganda activities, he was ticked off by the Bro. Director on many occasions. Lau Po maintained that the Bro. Director had no control over him outside of school hours. They had many arguments. Finally it was settled that Lau Po give up class teaching to be a school clerk and a spare teacher. He stayed in St. Joseph’s […lines missing…]
By now the Manchu had been overthrown so there was no need for propaganda work. Except for teaching the Cantonese dialect to some Europeans, Lau Po was without a job. He wound up the drama club “Ching Ping Lok” and changed its name to “Tam Yuen.” For the post revolution years it was the unofficial headquarters of the Komintang in Hong Kong. Its last address was top floor of Commercial Press Bldg., Queen’s Road, Central. I remember having been there for an anniversary dinner to celebrate the success of the revolutionary party against the Manchus. I represented my father on that occasion. In the dinner party there were many boys of my own age, all second generation of revolutionist parents. Some of the older members re-acted the successful attempt on the life of Manchu General Fu Gee in memory of Mr. Wan San Choy who sacrificed his own life to complete his mission. Tam Yuen later became a very popular club of the idle rich who did nothing to help the revolutionary cause at the time of need, and who now wished to be identified with the club that earned the credit of overthrowing the Manchus. For the ex-revolutionary party members who had their roots in Hong Kong and did not relish the risky business of taking an official job in the post revolution government in China, they teamed up to form a society to introduce new method of agriculture to the Chinese farmers. “Society for the advancement of Agriculture” was formed in Hong Kong. The members of this Society felt that by helping the farmers to learn new and more productive methods of agriculture was one of the ways they could serve their country. They bought land near Shum Chun and built small experimental farms there to attract farmers to take interest in the new method of farming. Before they got very far with their work, Yuen Sai Kai came to power. He wanted to be the Emperor of China and was trying to revive the monarchy rule in the country. The pro-monarchy governor in Canton, Lung Chai Kwong, ordered the arrest of all Komintang members. Lau Po and his colleagues were driven from Shum Chun and their land was confiscated. He suffered some financial setback but he did not give up the idea of serving his country by helping to introduce modern method of agriculture to the farmers.
Lau Po came into some money when his aunt passed away. His maternal uncle, Rev. Fr. Lum[林蔭棠神父(1869-1939)], who was a missionary (R.C.) in the Po On District, had an orchard in Pak Sek Lung, a village about thirty miles north west of Shum Chun. On the advice of Fr. Lum, he bought land next to Fr. Lum’s orchard and built a small house there. This was the farm that he spent most of his time when he was not teaching. Lau Po was still out of work and he has a big family. His wife Anna Lum contributed a lot of work to help to balance the family budget. It was about this time that his former pupil Mr. Tsui Yan Sau approached him to start a school to teach English to Chinese boys. As far as I could remember, there no was no English school owned or managed by Chinese interest at that time. When Wah Yan College celebrated its 50 years anniversary, Mr. Peter Tsui Yan Sau in his speech said in parts “when I wanted to start a school to teach English to Chinese boys, I went to look for my old teacher Mr. Lau Po for help.” Had it not been for Mr. Peter Tsui, Wah Yan College would not have started. Lau Po had no money at that time, and even if he had the money he would not use it to start a school, because he did not agree with the education system of that time. He often said that he was not educating people but was helping to turn out pen-pushers and type writer operators. Until Mr. Peter Tsui asked him to help start a school, he never tried to apply for another teaching post in spite of being out of job for many years. While in Wah Yan he had a free hand. Mr. Peter Tsui left everything to him, but he did not stay there long. He retired from Wah Yan when it was doing very well.
Lau Po was a staunch Roman Catholic. He allowed his eldest son Jerome to join the De La Salle Brothers when Jerome was almost old enough to leave school to take a job to help the family. Lau Po took part in most of the religious activities and practiced his religion seriously. He was upright and honest and had lots of consideration for the underprivileged of his time. He had friends among the Chinese and Portuguese and many god-children – the late Rev. Fr. Luke Fung [Fung Tak-yiu, Lucas馮德堯神父 1902-1970] and the late Mr. John Fung were among them. The late John Fung was put in Wah Yan College through the good office of Lau Po. When he stayed in his farm, he would walk over two and a half miles of unmake-up foot paths with an oil lamp in order to be in the village chapel to say evening prayers with the village community. He usually took me along with him on these trips. Lau Po was a friend of Rt. Rev. Bishop Pozzoni and it was through the good office of the Bishop that Lau Po was able to secure and rent the former school premise of St. Joseph’s College in Robinson Road. The modern school premises together with its prime location helped to lift up Wah Yan College to a class of its own. It also implied that this school had the blessing of the Italian Mission. Lau Po’s former pupils sent their children to him. The non-Catholic Chinese parents liked Wah Yan because it did not insist that their children must study Catechism or other forms of religious indoctrination contrary to their own. Overseas Chinese parents who wanted their sons to learn the Cantonese dialect also picked Wah Yan College. All these factors contributed to the success of the school. Within a few months after it moved into the new premises, which has about ten times more class-room space than the previous one in Hollywood Road, all the classes were full. Wah Yan College was the largest and the most popular English school managed and owned by Chinese interest at the time. It has brilliant students who excelled in school examinations as well as good athletes who won fame for the school in the field. After a few years Wah Yan College became successful academically as well as commercially.
Lau Po retired from Wah Yan College at the height of its success. He went back to his fruit farm in Po On District to practice and introduce American method of fruit culture to the farmers. He learned agriculture from books and had been a subscriber to “The Farm Journal” for many years, and some of these magazines had the date 1915 on them. He died of typhoid in his farm in 1925 at the age of 47. His second son, the oldest – 14 years old, was by his bedside during his illness. His last words to him were “to follow his foot step and love the Fatherland as he did.”
Lau Po’s family
At the time of writing three of Lau Po’s sons are in China. One of them is a herbalist doctor in Po On District. Two in Canton, both hold supervisory jobs, one in a weaving factory, the other in an automobile maintenance workshop. The one that works for the motor car maintenance works had recently retired. Of the three sons now in China only one is known to be a party member [CCP? KMT?]. He joined the party in 1942. Lau Po’s second son and a married daughter are living in Hong Kong. His eldest son Jerome who was a religious Brother of the De La Salle Order returned to lay life sometime in 1928. He passed away about ten years ago, survived by his wife and five children. The children are doing very well. Mrs. Lau Po passed away in 1929. She died of old age. When World War II broke out in Asia, the second son, an old member of the HKVDC (Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Corps) served in Hong Kong and then in China. He was awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) by the British Government in 1947 for war service. A few years ago he retired from business. He loved and admired his late father and wrote this account of what he knew of him. The account was written primarily for the younger members of the family who had no opportunity to know some history of their family. He established the “LAU PO EDUCATIONAL FUND” in memory of his late father. He regrets that he cannot fulfil the last wish of his father by helping the “Fatherland” with some of the income from the FUND. Conditions prevailing in China today does not allow it, [yet] from recent development there is strong hope for a change for the better in the near future. He respectfully invites the Principal of Wah Yan College to accept donations from the income of the FUND to help to perpetuate the name of his late father. He thinks if his father Lau Po is alive today he would be happy to know that the school, Wah Yan College, which he helped to establish is truly educating young people and not merely turning out pen-pushers and typists.
Lau Po has many grand-children. Some in China, Canada, Hong Kong and one in Switzeland.
Appendix I – Certificate of Marriage, Matthew Lau & Agnes Lam, 13th January, 1902, St. Lazarus’ Church, Diocese of Macau
Appendix II – Tetimonium Baptismi et Confirmationis, Matthew Lau, 17th September, 1880, St. Lazarus’ Church, Diocese of Macau
Retyped and edited by Cyril Jerome Law, Jr., Lau Po’s great grand son, 1st January, 2007.