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TIN Ka Ping




TIN Ka Ping

Doctor of Social Sciences
honoris causa

Dr Tin Ka Ping's name is synonymous with philanthropy, especially in the arena of education. Indeed his quite remarkable acts of munificence are now part of Hong Kong's folklore.

Dr Tin was born in Guangdong in 1919 - yes that makes him ninety-one years of age - into a family that had a great respect for Confucian values which have continued to guide him throughout his life. During his business career he has faced many challenges and overcome them all. His life and strict moral values serve as a role model to us all.

His father died when he was only sixteen and he had to cut short his studies to take charge of his father's business and support his family. At the age of eighteen, attracted by its business potential, he decided to head for Vietnam where he quickly established a flourishing business importing porcelain clay from his home village in China into Vietnam. The Japanese invasion of Shantou in 1939, however, prevented any further export of porcelain and his business came to an abrupt end. Undeterred, he decided to begin again, this time in Bandung in Indonesia where his brother had a small business. Again the Japanese invaded - this time in 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbour - and he was forced to flee to Jakarta where he eked out a meager living.

Following the Japanese surrender in 1945 Dr Tin tried his hand at yet another business - rubber processing - at which he proved extremely successful. In 1951 he was sufficiently confident of his abilities to found his second company "Nanyang", a plastic processing company and by his early 30s he had proved his acumen as a prominent industrialist.

Fate intervened yet again. As a result of increasing anti-Chinese sentiment in Indonesia Dr Tin decided in 1958 to give up his highly successful businesses and move to Hong Kong. This was a brave decision because Hong Kong was far from being a developed metropolis at that time. It did, however, offer stability, a good location for the education of his children and potential for entrepreneurial spirit. Dr Tin was a man up to the challenge. He immediately turned his business skills to the manufacture of plastic and synthetic leather. He purchased 300,000 square feet of land in Tuen Mun (would you believe at nine cents per square foot!) to build a factory manufacturing plastic film and synthetic leather. The rest is well known. His business empire grew from strength to strength and, as a result of his resounding success and following the receipt of many international accolades for the consistent quality of his products and services, he earned his title "the King of Synthetic Leather".

His route to royal status was not easily achieved however. Over a period of more than fifty years his business withstood several financial crises, social upheavals, riots, bank runs, property market collapses, bird flu and SARS. Unlike many businesses which floundered under these conditions, his company was founded on solid foundations and Dr Tin's business skills and integrity saw it safely through such adversities. When I asked him about his motivation for embarking upon a career in manufacturing, he replied that he was attracted to industry by its honest and down to earth nature: one succeeded or failed upon the quality of one's product. Through his endeavours he deservedly became a rich man.

What is most remarkable about Dr Tin, however, is what he has done with his money. Supporting charitable causes has been his lifelong mission and in 1982 he established the Tin Ka Ping Foundation to support charities, especially in the sphere of education. He holds the strong belief that public betterment is best achieved through education and that, for education to be successful, there must be an abundant supply of keen, well trained teachers carrying out their work in well-equipped teaching facilities.

Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan have been his primary beneficiaries. In Hong Kong Dr Tin has made numerous generous donations to fund scholarships, research grants and building improvements to our tertiary institutions and more than twenty primary and secondary schools, kindergartens and elderly and youth care centres bear his name. In the Mainland the Tin Ka Ping Foundation has provided funding to 1,450 rural school libraries, more than 200 primary and secondary schools and about eighty tertiary institutions. Of these thirty-nine colleges of education in different universities and 165 secondary schools bear his name. He has indeed put into practice his belief that the future of China lies in education.

Indeed so committed is Dr Tin to giving that in 2001, during the economic downturn, he sold his large residence of thirty-seven years and moved into modest rented accommodation so that extra funds could be made available for charitable purposes. He explained his action saying:

"In China many people know that I am very supportive of education. My Foundation receives numerous requests for donations and at times the amount of money needed exceeds my available cash. But since I have promised to help I must honour my promise. I had agreed to help a number of schools but due to the financial crisis my earnings had been dented and funds available were inadequate to cover all the agreed projects. So I sold my house and the money has proved enough to help build twenty schools".

This is quite an astonishing act of philanthropy. Indeed it has been pointed out that, although Mr Tin is certainly not the richest of our many benefactors in Hong Kong, he has almost certainly given away a much greater proportion of his assets than any other.

His contribution to our community has been widely and justly acclaimed. He has received more than ten honorary doctorates and fellowships from higher educations institutions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the PRC and he has been made an honorary citizen of over eighty Chinese cities. He has even had an asteroid named after him by the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing.

He was awarded an MBE in 1996, an Honorary Fellowship by this University in 1997 and a Grand Bauhinia Medal in 2010.

Dr Tin has been especially generous to this University. He was a Founding Honorary Patron of the HKU Foundation and in 2008 his Foundation established the Tin Ka Ping Education Fund to enhance the capacity of the Faculty of Education to provide the most advanced knowledge and philosophies of education for the benefit of students in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

Dr Tin is a shining example of how Confucian values and success in business can go hand in hand, He explains that more than anything he has been guided throughout his long life by the Confucian principle "chéng" (誠) which involves the twin virtues of sincerity and integrity. He has instilled these values in his nine children of whom he is very proud. Indeed he has said that "my biggest wealth is not money but my children". This sentiment should surely embrace not just his own direct descendants but the thousands of grateful children throughout Hong Kong and Mainland China who have benefitted from his selflessness.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to present to you Dr Tin Ka Ping for 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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