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Jack SO Chak Kwong




Jack SO Chak Kwong

Doctor of Social Sciences
honoris causa

Jack So Chak Kwong is a remarkable man of innovative ideas and decisive action. In a nutshell he has led the development of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the IFC in Central, the ICC in Kowloon, the Airport Express, the Tseung Kwan O rail line extension and he has also been responsible for the introduction of Octopus cards and NOW TV. These facilities and ventures have, of course, had an enormous impact upon the everyday lives of all of us and it is hard to imagine life in Hong Kong without them. Closer to home, he has also played a significant role in our Centennial Campus Development.

Jack was a student at La Salle College making him one of the five former pupils of the de La Salle brothers amongst today's recipients. In 1969, he graduated from our Faculty of Arts where he specialised in economics, accounting and statistics. In 1969 he commenced a career as a civil servant with the Hong Kong Government. In 1974 he moved to the newly formed and then unpopular Independent Commission Against Corruption where he was assistant to Jack Cater, the founder and first Commissioner of the ICAC. He made the switch to the private sector in 1978 and joined Sun Hung Kai Securities where he rose through the ranks to become General Manager.

During this period he instigated the trading of Hong Kong securities in London and New York which, at the time, was a significant breakthrough.

Jack then returned to public service in 1985, this time as Head of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the international marketing agency for Hong Kong based traders, manufacturers and service providers. He oversaw the building of the Convention and Exhibition Centre and the creation of many trade fairs to promote business and industries in Hong Kong and the wider Pearl River Delta.

Having clearly impressed in this role he was invited to be Chief Executive and Chairman of the Mass Transit Railway Corporation in 1995. During his dynamic eight-year period of leadership the MTR underwent massive expansion. The Airport Express line, the Tung Chung line as well as the Tseung Kwan O extension were constructed and work was begun on the Disney Rail Link, and the Ngong Ping Cable Car. As a prominent physical legacy of his time devoted to the MTR stand the massive towers of the IFC constructed on Airport Express station and the ICC constructed on Kowloon station. One of his most spectacular successes was the introduction of the Octopus card - the first in the world - which has now become an indispensable feature of Hong Kong life and emulated in many other countries around the world. Widely known as the "pat dat tung" - a name given by Jack himself meaning "Go Anywhere", it is more than a ticket for all modes of transport and has now become the people's "electronic purse" for all kinds of retail purchase.

I think you will recall, Mr Pro-Chancellor, that Jack also took MTR public when shares in the MTR were made available to common people of Hong Kong. He expressed to me his delight that many had been purchased by "gung gung and por por" (the grandpas and grandmas) from of the lower income class and the value of their investment has risen significantly.

Jack left employment with the MTR in 2003 for a four-year stint working as Deputy Chairman of PCCW. His talent for innovation continued unabated and he led the development of Now TV, the world's first commercially successful Internet Protocol TV network. I should observe here that NOW TV only became possible because of Professor Charles Kao's fibre optics which enabled PCCW to transmit almost unlimited information down the telephone line.

In 2007 he rejoined the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, assuming its Chairmanship, a post he currently holds. As such he plans and supervises the Councils' global operations, services and promotional activities through a network covering more than forty cities. In recent years he has been especially successful in assisting Hong Kong companies in accessing the consumer market in Mainland China.

Jack's love of the arts was fulfilled by his appointment by the HKSAR Government in 2007 as Chairman of the Film Development Council which has been applauded for its remarkable initial success in reviving the film industry in Hong Kong. He is also Vice-Chairman of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society Board of Governors.

Since 2008 Jack has been a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and is also a member of the International Business Leader Advisory Council for the Mayor of Beijing. With all his community service commitments, Jack is still active in business world. Currently, he is Vice Chairman of Credit Suisse (Greater China) and also sits on the boards of AIA and Cathay Pacific.

I will now turn to Jack's special contribution to the prosperity of our University with which he has enjoyed a long and fruitful association. As Chairman of the University's Impact Study Steering Committee appointed to celebrate our 90th Anniversary he oversaw the publication in 1993 of the well-researched and informative publication "Growing with Hong Kong; the University and its Graduates, the First ninety years", which documented the significant impact that the University has had on the development of Hong Kong through the stories of some 1,500 alumni leaders. Jack has also served as a member of Council and Chairman of our Campus Development & Planning Committee for six important years. His role in the fund raising, planning and construction of our new Centennial Campus has been especially dynamic. This is a massive undertaking which will house three Faculties and he has been instrumental in steering it close to fruition by his energy and wisdom. He also used his well-known oratorical and persuasive skills to gain support, both financial and physical, for the project.

Jack was awarded an OBE by the British Government and a Fellowship by this University in 2001.

Jack tells me that his philosophy for life has always been "work hard, play hard", there's plenty of time to rest after death". He is a great team player who much favours brainstorming and collective innovation. Indeed he is well-known for inviting his colleagues to his boat on Sundays, partly for leisure and partly for informal chit chat on business ideas. Many of his great ideas have been borne on the seas off Hong Kong. Others were borne on the ski slopes of the USA and Europe and the golf courses of Hong Kong.

Jack - our man of ideas and action - has played many crucial roles in the development of Hong Kong, introducing many innovations that have impacted upon our everyday lives and being instrumental in Hong Kong's commercial success. As a distinguished alumnus he has made us all very proud.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Mr Jack So Chak Kwong for the award of the degree of Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa.

Citation written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator of the University. 

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