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Stanley Ho’s flight to Macau in World War II laid the foundation for his wealth. But it is not without controversy



Remembering the life of Stanley Ho, Macao's 'godfather of gambling'

But before Ho makes Macao, he must make it himself.

Born in 1921, Ho had a difficult time when his father fled to Saigon, after his business collapsed in the late 1920s, leaving the family side penniless. Not long after, World War II broke out.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Britain and America declared war on Japan. Japanese troops invaded the British colony of Hong Kong where, despite fierce resistance, the city fell on Christmas Day.

Ho, who had worked as an air raid guard, threw away his uniform for fear of being executed when Hong Kong was under Japanese domination, he recalled in Jill McGivering’s book, “Macao Remembers.”

But unlike the thousands who died of starvation, in battle or in Japanese hands, Ho had a choice.

His great-uncle was Sir Robert Hotung, a rich comprador from Eurasia, who was the first Chinese to live in the Peak of Hong Kong, a wealthy district where only Westerners were allowed to live.

In the 1940s, Sir Robert lived in Macao, and invited Ho, then 20 years old, to join him in the Portuguese colony where many opportunities awaited.

In the 1990s, 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.”

This is how he does it.

Macau: City of Peace

In the early 1940s, with most of China under Japanese control, Macau found itself in a unique position in Asian theater.

Portugal remained neutral in the war, until 1944, and as such, Macau was also considered a neutral territory. This colony is managed by the Portuguese Governor Gabriel Maurício Teixeira, and Dr. The enigmatic Pedro José Lobo, known only as Dr. Lobo.

Japan, however, controls the seas and ports around Macao. That means Macau must work with Japan to allow food and supplies to enter the colony. For Teixeira and Lobo, it is a fragile balance between maintaining the neutral integrity of the region and avoiding open collaboration with Japan.

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Wartime conditions were very difficult in Macao. Short food supplies, rampant inflation and colonies have to deal with a growing number of Chinese and European refugees. Smuggling and black market developing.

To solve this problem Lobo created the Macao Cooperative Company (CCM), and Lobo asked Sir Robert Hotung if there was someone he could trust to work as a Corporate Secretary.

Sir Robert recommends Ho.

The CCM is arguably the most important institution in Macao during the war – the organization that fed the colonies. Its main role is to keep Macau alive economically, to be able to feed itself, and to balance fragile relations with Japan.

That one third is owned by Lobo, one third is owned by the richest Portuguese family of Macao, and the last third is owned by the Japanese Army.

Ho knew the settings when he joined.

In an interview with Simon Holberton of the Financial Times more than half a century later, Ho said: “I am responsible for the barter system, helping the Macau government to exchange machinery and equipment with Japan, in return for rice, sugar, beans.

“I was a semi-government official at the time. I was an intermediary.”

King of kerosene

As Secretary of the CMM, Ho was authorized by Lobo to feed Macau by exchanging whatever the island offered.

This is not office work. Ho must regularly travel by ship on payment to receive goods and bring them back to Macau. His work involved playing from Portuguese authorities, the Japanese military, triad gangs, and various Chinese factions.

In his memoir, Ho recalls that his first and most urgent task was learning Portuguese and Japanese because his job was to barter between the two.

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There is an element of courage to live Ho in wartime Macao. Sailing rice, vegetables, beans, flour, sugar and other supplies between Indo-Chinese French and Macao, along the southern Chinese coast and around Hainan Island, means avoiding pirate gangs that will carry your gold on your way out and stock up on ships enter.

Macau coastline in 1941.

Chinese guerrillas or nationalist Communists are equally interested in securing supplies or money for themselves, and many see CCM’s activities as collaboration with the enemy.

Japanese navy ships were known to fire on all kinds of civilian craft temporarily, later in the war, according to historian Geoffrey Gunn, American and British submarines were responsible for sinking whatever ships they thought were dealing with Japan.

Around this time, Ho opened a kerosene factory when the general fuel supply was running out, according to Joe Studwell, who conducted many interviews with Ho’s family colleagues for his book “Asian Godfathers.”

Near the end of the war, the Americans – worried that Japan would completely take over Macau and use it as a base to defend southern China and Hong Kong – bombed the Macao petrol terminal in early 1945 to refuse supplies to the Japanese navy and air force. compel.

The attack, wiping out the only other source of Macao kerosene, inadvertently made Ho important for the continued functioning of Macau and very rich.


After the war, Ho faced criticism that he had collaborated with Japan.

But the neutrality of the Macao war was always influenced by Japan – especially after the fall of Hong Kong. And in 1943, when Tokyo demanded the installation of a Japanese advisor to oversee Macau, a virtual Japanese protectorate was created on the island. Contact is unavoidable. Ho claimed to have given Colonel Sawa, the head of the Japanese military’s secret police in Macau, an English lesson.

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However, the Chinese Nationalist government, which has been aggressively fighting against Tokyo since 1937, considers Ho and CMM business transactions dangerous and supports Japan’s war on China.

Stanley Ho had accumulated wealth at the end of World War II. This picture is from 1971.

Chinese officials tried to arrest Ho for collaboration, but, according to his own account of the effort, the Portuguese colonial police protected him. By the end of 1945, Ho had become too entrenched, too important for the Makaca economy to be surrendered by the Portuguese government to China.

In his defense, Ho wrote that when he asked why he had to work with the Japanese with their treatment of the Chinese, and claimed he was told that “it was the Portuguese government’s order” and that “without food the Macao people would starve.”

After the war

At the end of World War II in 1945, Stanley Ho had obtained four important things – first, he had strengthened a lifelong relationship with Lobo, the unofficial big boss of Macao.

Then, in 1942, he married the daughter of a wealthy Portuguese family, giving him protection and social position. Third, he collected a lot of money and became a millionaire on his 24th birthday. Fourth, he established businesses in the trade of rice, kerosene and construction.

Within a few weeks after the Japanese surrender in August 1945, Ho returned to Hong Kong to make strategic investments, such as buying a ship to start the first post-war ferry service between the two colonies.

He has cash, position, family and good friends in useful positions.

He was ready to remake Macao and invest heavily in post-war Hong Kong. In his memoir about that period Ho wrote: “Macau was heaven during the war.”

As they say, Ho has a very good war.

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Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.



Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.

Method Media Bermuda will present the documentary FABRIC: Portuguese History in Bermuda on Thursday, December 29 at the Underwater Research Institute of Bermuda.

A spokesperson said: “Method Media is proud to bring Bermuda Fabric: Portugal History to Bermuda for its 5th and 6th showing at the Bermuda Underwater Observatory. In November and December 2019, Cloth: A Portuguese Story in Bermuda had four sold-out screenings. Now that Bermuda has reopened after the pandemic, it’s time to bring the film back for at least two screenings.

“There are tickets For $ 20 – sessions at 15:30 and 18:00. Both screenings will be followed by a short Q&A session.

Director and producer Milton Raboso says, “FABRIC is a definitive account of the Portuguese community in Bermuda and its 151 years of history, but it also places Bermuda, Acors and Portugal in the world history and the events that have fueled those 151 years.

“It took more than 10 years to implement FABRIC. The film was supported by the Minister of Culture, the Government of the Azores and private donors.

Bermuda Media Method [MMB] Created in 2011 by producer Milton Raposo. MMB has created content for a wide range of clients: Bermuda’s new hospital renovation, reinsurance, travel campaigns, international sports and more. MMB pays special attention to artistic, cultural and historical content.

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Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.



Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

Maestro Filipe Cunha, Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Braga, has been invited to conduct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, as announced today.

According to a statement sent by O MINHO, “he will be the first Portuguese conductor to conduct this orchestra in its entire history.”

In addition to this orchestra, the maestro will also work with the Lyceo Mozarteum de la Habana Symphony Orchestra.

The concerts will take place on 4 and 12 March 2023 at the National Theater of Cuba in Havana.

In the words of the maestro, quoted in the statement, “these will be very beautiful concerts with difficult but very complex pieces” and therefore he feels “very motivated”.

From the very beginning, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will be performed by an Italian pianist (Luigi Borzillo), whom the maestro wants to bring to Portugal later this year. In the same concert, Mendelshon’s First Symphony will be performed.

Then, at the second concert, in the company of the Mexican clarinetist Angel Zedillo, he will perform the Louis Sfora Concerto No. 2. In this concert, the maestro also conducts Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

“This is an international recognition of my work. An invitation that I accept with humility and great responsibility. I was surprised to learn that I would be the first Portuguese member of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. This is a very great honor,” the maestro said in a statement.

“I take with me the name of the city of Braga and Portugal with all the responsibility that goes with it, and I hope to do a good job there, leaving a good image and putting on great concerts. These will be very special concerts because, in addition to performing pieces that I love, especially Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, I will be directing two wonderful soloists who are also my friends. It will be very beautiful,” concludes Filipe Cunha.

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