The Pioneers of Sibu

Wong Nai Siong (1849 - 1924)
Wong Nai Siong was born in Mintsing (Minqing) County in Fujian Province of China. He was a patriot and revolutionary of China. In 1898 when the Reform Movement initiated by the scholars and intellectuals failed, he escaped to Nanyang. So, in 1900 he arrived in Sarawak seeking agricultural land and signed an agreement with the 2nd Rajah of Sarawak to bring in farmers to settle and cultivate the land in the Rajang basin. From 1901 to 1902 he brought in more than a thousand Foochow agricultural settlers and became the Kangchu (Proprietor) of the Foochow Settlement in Sibu, In 1904 he returned to China. Although under his managemnt the Sibu Foochow Settlement was not very successful, his pioneering efforts will never be forgotten.

Reverend James Matthews Hoover (1872 - 1935)
Rev. James Hoover came from Pennsylvania State of the U.S.A. and had been working as a Christian missionary in Penang before coming to the Sibu Foochow Settlement in 1903. When the Sibu Foochow Settlement suffered severe set-backs, many settlers left to work elsewhere leaving less than 700 of them in the settlement. Rev. James Hoover not only helped them solve many of their problems but also introduced machines and production techniques from the West which stabilised the work of the Settlement and facilitated its rapid development.

Lau King Howe (1869 - 1932)
Lau King Howe was educated in China and received his higher education in the Philippines. He emigrated to Sarawak to work at the Sibu Foochow Settlement. There, he saw many sick people but there was no hospital to look after them. In 1930 he put forward a proposal to the Resident of Sibu, C.D. Adams, about donating his land and money to build a hospital. His proposal was well received by the then State Secretary of Sarawak, T.C. Swayne, who agreed to name the hospital after the donor - Lau King Howe. On 7th March 1931, Rajah Vyner Brooke, the Third Rajah of Sarawak, presented to him an award in recognition of his generous gesture. In May the same year, Lau King Howe returned to China where he died the following year.

Ling Chu Ming (1898 - 1956)
Born in Kutien County in Fujian Province of China, Ling Chu Ming came to Sibu to help his elder brother in his shop, Ling Kong Thai. Later, business became bad as a result of world depression and when his brother died, Ling Chu Ming moved to Bukit Lan and turned to agriculture. He planted a few hundred acres of rubber trees and set up Ling Kong Thai Mill, initially for rice milling and rubber sheets pressing. Later, it was developed into Ling Kong Thai Sawmill to cater for the timber business which became one of the earliest and most successful timber businesses, thus laying the foundation for todays' Kong Thai (1963) Company Limited.

Chew Geok Ling (1904 - 1965)
Chew Geok Ling's ancestors emigrated from Haideng District in Fujian Province of China to Penang, where he was born. He was educated in Singapore but later came to Sibu to seek his fortune. He became a business partner of Teo Chong Loh when he opened Wah Tat Money Exchange and Remittances which was the forerunner of Wah Tat Bank. In 1957, he was appointed the 3rd Chinese Kapitan of Sibu.

Ting Lik Hung (1914 - 1992)
Ting Lik Hung was born in Kutien County in Fujian Province of China and educated first at a school in Kutien County and then in Foochow City. On 20th November 1933, a group of the Kuo Min Tang Army Officers led the 19th Army and set up the 'Chinese Republic's Revolutionary Government' at Foochow City to oppose Chiang Kai Shek. It was at this time that Ting Lik Hung joined the 19th Army of the Kuo Min Tang. When the Fujian Incident failed, Ting Lik Hung was sent to further his studies at the Central Military School for Cadets at Luoyang City in Henan Province in China. After graduation, he followed the army and fought in many battles in areas north and south of China, and because of injuries he retired from his military career. In 1937, he came to Sibu to manage the Yufeng Money Exchange established by his father. In 1951, he gathered his fellow Foochow people and set up Hock Hua Bank. In 1977 he was appointed the Temenggong of the Chinese Community in Sibu.

Datuk Wong Tuong Kwang
Datuk Wong was born in Sibu in 1919. After the war, there was a great need for reconstruction in many places. By recognising that timber was a raw material for building, he actively involved himself in the development of logging business and became the pioneer to enter the international timber market with great success. His founding organisation, WTK Organisation is now involved in a diversity of businesses which include logs and timber processing, property and real estate development, disposable glove manufacturing, trading, mining and plantation, insurance, shipping, tourism and travel services. In 1989, the WTK Headquarters, Bangunan Hung Ann, was completed.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar Ling Beng Siew
He was born on 13th December 1926 in Sibu and is one of the son of Ling Chu Ming. From 1955 until 1962, he was a member of the Sarawak Legislative Council and from 1958 till 1962 he was also a member of the Sarawak Supreme Council. In 1962, he was elected Chairman cum Treasurer of the Central Executive Committee of the Sarawak Alliance. As the President of the Sarawak Chinese Association, a Chinese based political party, he played an important role in the formation of Malaysia. He was awarded the Datukship in 1964, the Datuk Amar in 1977 and the title Tan Sri in 1983.

Datuk Amar Ling Beng Siong
He was born in Sibu and is a younger brother of Tan Sri Datuk Amar Ling Beng Siew. He received his early education in Sibu and tertiary education in Australia. He managed the business of Ling Kong Thai Sawmill after his father's death in 1956. He renamed Ling Kong Thai Sawmill as Kong Thai (1963) Company Limited and modernised its facilities and production. In 1967, as a Councillor representing Sarawak Chinese Association, he was appointed Minister of Youth and Culture in the State Cabinet. In 1974, when the Sarawak Chinese Association was dissolved, he joined Sarawak United People Party (SUPP). In 1978, he left the party and retired from politics. In recognition of his contributions he was awarded the Datukship by the Head of State in 1968 and the title Datuk Amar in 1984.

Datuk Lau Hui Kang
Datuk Lau was born on 14th June 1926, in Mintsing County in Fujian Province of China. In 1928, his parents brought him to Sibu and settled down at Bukit Lan, a village in the Lower Rajang. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, he ran a passenger motor-boat business. From 1953 onwards he turned to timber business. In 1956 he set up Hua Lin Sawmill at Simunjan and became its Managing Director. In 1962 he set up K.T.S. Company Limited dealing in the purchase and export of timber.

-Fong Hon Kah,
A history of the development of Rajang Basin in Sarawak