Hua Ho Dept Store founder passes away at 98

|     Achong Tanjong     |


PEHIN Kapitan China Kornia Diraja Dato Paduka Lau Ah Kok, founder and chairman of Hua Ho Department Store, passed away yesterday morning at his residence in Kampong Manggis. He was 98 years.

Pehin Dato Paduka Lau was a legendary figure well known throughout Brunei as a business and community leader, serving as a bridge between the Malay and Chinese communities in the Sultanate.

He was born in 1920 in Pengcheng (now known as Xuzhou), Henan Province, China, and settled down in Brunei in 1940. According to the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) publication ‘Southeast Asian Personalities of Chinese Descent: A Biographical Dictionary’, he was 19 at that time and had only B$10 in his pocket.

As a Chinese community leader, he was active in liaising with the government on behalf of the Chinese community to foster good relationships between the two parties and strengthen cooperation and build a foundation for cordial communications. He also actively participated in the celebration of various national festivities.

In recognition of his efforts and contributions to the Chinese community and government activities, Pehin Dato Paduka Lau was bestowed the title of Pehin Kapitan China Kornia Diraja by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on April 21, 2004.

Pehin Kapitan China Kornia Diraja Dato Paduka Lau Ah Kok, founder and chairman of Hua Ho Department Store. – ACHONG TANJONG

He received a further decoration on July 15, 2006 during His Majesty’s 60th birthday celebrations when he was bestowed the title of Dato Paduka – a meritorious service medal.

On August 29, 2008, in recognition of his business achievements in Brunei, the Kuala Lumpur-based regional NGO, Enterprise Asia, awarded Pehin Dato Paduka Lau the Asia-Pacific Entrepreneurship Lifetime Achievement Award.

It was his strong determination and perseverance that made Pehin Dato Paduka Lau the success that he was.

He opened the first Hua Ho store in 1947, rapidly expanding his business with the opening of several other stores down the years.

Hua Ho Mall Manggis was opened in 2005, while Hua Ho Mall Tanjung Bunut was opened in 2006. And in 2007, the third consecutive year of expansion of the department store chain, Hua Ho Petani Mall in Tutong was opened.

Hua Ho Department Store is today one of the largest and most prominent department store chains in Brunei, with nine stores spread across locations such as Sengkurong, Gadong 2, Kiulap, Yayasan and Delima (Serusop).

The Hua Ho founder also notably set up several agricultural farms under the Hua Ho marque, supplying fruits, vegetables, chicken and eggs to department stores, while in 2000, he established the Hua Ho Cultural Foundation to help preserve and promote Chinese culture.