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PAO Yue Kong

Doctor of Laws
honoris causa

Mr Chancellor, when it comes to the launching of ships upon the wine-dark sea Mr Y K Pao cannot compete with Helen of Troy. Yet, with his 121 vessels already in profitable operation and with forty-six more soon to ply the oceans he is on the brink of becoming the biggest independent shipowner in the world. This world, though, is fraught with danger and uncertainty, a world in which it is alleged the supertanker is the most vulnerable of all assets. But Mr Pao dismisses the jeremiahs of the media and the dire prognostications of the pundits, continuing all the while to sail serenely his meticulously charted, chartered course. It is this very confidence, this steady assurance, coupled with determination, dedication, and financial dexterity which has within two decades both created a new maritime empire and led Hong Kong to overtake many of the traditional marine powers. Mr Pao was not born to the sea. A native of Ningpo, the son of a prosperous merchant, Mr Pao Siu Loong, the youthful Pao Yue Kong's education was rudely interrupted by the Sino-Japanese War. A promising career in banking followed, first in Hengyang, then in Chungking, and finally - the War over - in Shanghai where he rapidly rose to become Deputy General Manager of the Municipal Bank. But Mr Pao, an unabashed capitalist, realizing that the new order held no future for him, left for Hong Kong in 1949. Here, with the funds that they had managed to salvage, the Paos set themselves up as merchants. This proved an insufficient outlet for Mr. Pao's boundless energy and he prevailed on his somewhat perturbed family to enter the shipping industry. In 1955 he purchased his first vessel, a second-hand, coal-burning freighter of 7,800 deadweight tons. From this modest start has emerged an operation that is indeed world-wide. It is a feat which is astonishing even by the standards of Hong Kong. When he embarked upon his new career, Mr. Pao had scant knowledge of and no training in the shipping business. Yet his experience in banking, his quicksilver mind, and his relentless drive, soon enabled him to master the multi-faceted aspects of the industry, and he has been known at board meetings to dumbfound his specialists with his grasp of technical details.

Mr Y K Pao is the first to admit that the days of the buccaneers are over, that any businessman, corporation, or industry has to be increasingly conscious of his or their social responsibilities. As he has observed: "The larger the entity or the more significant its position in the world, the greater the burden that must rightfully be borne". He is acutely aware of environmental problems and of the threat of oil spillages, be they in Bantry Bay, the Malacca Straits, or closer to home, in Hong Kong waters, waters in which he himself has his ritualistic early morning swim, both in summer and winter. Mr Pao has demonstrated his concern in his active membership of international anti-pollution bodies, in his very generous contributions to the environmental development of Hong Kong, in his insistence that his vessels should be constructed according to the most stringent safety specifications, and in his establishment, in 1966, of the World-Wide Sea Training School. This last institution, solely financed by the Pao Group, has in the nine years of its existence, produced over 1,200 graduates, fully qualified to handle the taxing demands of today's sophisticated shipping. This pool of trained sea-faring personnel benefits his own companies in particular and Hong Kong's mercantile marine in general.

Mr Pao has repeatedly manifested, if usually anonymously, his interest in the education and health of our young. Apart from being a life Member of the Court of this University, he has also served on the UPGC, as is well known, he and his father donated two million Hong Kong dollars to our new Health Centre. Scholarships in Psychology have been endowed and financial provision made for the publication of books on Asian art and architecture by our University Press. Our sister University and the Hong Kong Baptist College have both been beneficiaries of the Pao family's munificence, as have many secondary institutions of learning. Princely sums have also been contributed for the encouragement of the Arts and towards the Community Chest.

It is thus as much for his philanthropic activities as for his other services to Hong Kong, on land and sea, that I now ask you, Mr Chancellor, to launch Pao Yue Kong himself on another voyage by conferring on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.

Citation written and delivered by Mr Hugh David Turner, BA, MLitt, the Public Orator of the University.

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