LUI Che Woo
Doctor of Social Sciences
Dr Lui was born into a well-off family in Jiangmen in Guangdong in 1929 but his family was forced to flee to the safety of the then British Colony of Hong Kong in 1934. Of this precarious trip he said:
‘I was four years old when we made the voyage by boat. I was with my mother and father and grandmother. I remember seeing Hong Kong for the first time from that boat. There were so many lights. It was so beautiful.'
He began his schooling at a local school in Yaumatei but the outbreak of the Second World War and the Japanese invasion put an end to that. At the age of thirteen he started work as a street hawker selling snacks to people queuing for home visit permits back to China.
After cessation of hostilities he gained some further schooling by way of evening classes but never received a proper education. Indeed he attributes his long demonstrated enthusiasm for educational philanthropy to his own lack of formal schooling.
He subsequently found work as a stock-keeper in a car parts shop, eventually becoming the shop's owner. Then came an important stroke of luck, albeit a stroke of luck that only a person with acute business acumen could put to great advantage. He learned from a friend that, after the Korean war, the United States army had left behind on the Japanese island of Okinawa a great deal of heavy machinery which included much needed equipment for digging quarries and reclaiming land. He bought it cheaply. Spurred on by this windfall he established his very successful business in supplying materials for houses and flats and building roads. In 1955 he founded the first K. Wah Company. Over the next 60 years he transformed the company into one of Asia's largest and leading conglomerates with a diversified business portfolio that includes interests in properties, entertainment and leisure, hospitality and, of course, construction materials with over 200 subsidiaries and more than 33,000 employees worldwide. In the 1990s Dr Lui expanded his businesses into Mainland China and the United States of America.
Having successfully established nearly twenty luxury hotels in the USA, he decided to expand his business empire into Macau with a view to assisting the Macau Special Administrative Region fulfil its ambition to develop into a world tourism centre. In 2002 he entered into the entertainment and leisure business through the Galaxy Entertainment Group which led to the opening of the glittering HK$43 billion mega integrated resort Galaxy Macau. He tells me, however, that the only game he plays is mahjong! His business acumen has made him one of Asia's richest persons.
In 2007 he was named as Business Person of the Year in the DHL/SCMP Business Awards.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the K. Wah Group in 2015, Dr Lui established the LUI Che Woo Prize - Prize for World Civilisation to honour people or organisations that have made outstanding contributions to `world civilisation'. Three prizes of HK$20 million each will be awarded for outstanding achievements in sustainable world development, the betterment of the welfare of mankind and the promotion of a positive life attitude and the enhancement of positive energy.
I want now to turn to his philanthropy. He has been especially supportive of health care, education and information technology. He has served as chairman of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and founding chairman of the China Association (HK) for Science and Society. In the area of education he has been driven by his firm belief that education is essential for the betterment of society. In 2009 he initiated a programme to reconstruct and refurbish more than 100 schools in Mainland China and he has been very generous to the tertiary institutions in Hong Kong. Looking at his generosity to this University in particular, he was a Founding Honorary Patron of the HKU Foundation and pledged a substantial donation to the University in 1997 for which our excellent law library was named after him. In 2010 he contributed to the setting up of an extended law library on the University's new Centennial Campus.
In recognition of Dr Lui's outstanding philanthropic contributions he has received many awards including an OBE from the Queen in 1982 and, from the HKSAR Government, a Gold Bauhinia Star in 2005 and a Grand Bauhinia Medal in 2012.
He has also received honorary doctorates from several universities in Hong Kong and Canada.
When I asked Dr Lui about his aspirations, he replied;
‘Although today society is advanced, I am saddened to see that there are still many conflicts and disputes in different parts of the world. We are fortunate to live on a planet which is fit for human habitation and should, therefore, be mindful to preserve the natural resources we currently enjoy for future generations. Sadly, a rich material life for many has neither brought genuine satisfaction nor created long-lasting peace and harmony in the world. Many people still suffer in war and struggle with poverty, famine and disease. It is essential to find solutions to build a caring and loving world with mutual understanding and tolerance in the spirit of harmony and sharing. It is not an easy task. The launch of the LUI Che Woo Prize is like sowing a seed and I sincerely hope that it will blossom one day to make the world a better place.'
It is my honour and privilege to present to you Dr Lui Che Woo for the degree of Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa.
Citation written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator of the University.