Citations and Speeches


124th Congregation (1985)

Pauline CHAN Chiu Kam
O.B.E., B.A.

The Public Orator Professor Francis Charles Timothy Moore, M.A., D.PHIL., wrote and delivered the following citation:

Mr. Chancellor, Oscar Wilde wrote: 'Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation'. And a kind of discontent has been one of the forces which has carried Pauline Chan from her childhood in a traditional Chinese family to being a model of modern industrial management.

Let it be noted that hers has not been that petulant discontent which sometimes betrays an inner sense of superiority, nor again that discontent with an outer world which fails to treat one aright, the discontent displayed in the claiming of rights or the defence of privileges. It is rather that precious discontent which is an awareness of the possibility of doing more, or doing better. Mr. Chancellor, a word has been coined for this philosophy by Miss Chan herself - she is a 'discontentist'. I shall sketch for you a history of this discontentist's discontent. Picture, if you will, a traditional household in Hong Kong. The boys are at their lessons in the schoolroom with their tutor. But standing by the door, we see an eavesdropper. Not content with her Fukienese grandfather's opinion that little girls are not made to be educated, she tempers obedience to the rule that she should not enter the schoolroom, with her desire to learn, and stands outside the door, hoping to catch the tutor's words. Her discontent at last prevails, and her grandfather relents; henceforth she may enter, and begin to learn.

At this point, Mr. Chancellor, Pauline Chan took the first step on a long road. The next stage of her education was entrusted to the Maryknoll Sisters. She was the first girl to be put forward by her school for entrance to the University of Hong Kong. At that time, the school taught no Chinese, and the young Pauline Chan had to take French as one of her subjects for University entrance. Once again, she felt a certain discontent, and decided to drop her French, and instead prepare during her spare time at home for the examinations in Chinese Literature and History. The young student succeeded in her examinations, Mr. Chancellor (in spite of the fact that in Chinese History, instead of covering the whole period up to the Ch'ing dynasty, she only reached the Sung!). She entered this University. Her first thought was to study Medicine. But once more, a certain discontent came into her mind at the prospect of a doctor's career in the circumstances which then prevailed, when, for economic reasons, medical services were not readily accessible for much of the population. Pauline Chan turned instead to the study of education.

After graduating, she returned to her own school as a teacher. But yet again, she felt a certain discontent. She found herself favouring a liberal style of teaching in which pupils should be encouraged to express their own views, and engage in discussion with their teacher, but the headmistress of her school preferred traditional ways. However, Miss Chan did not have to solve this problem at that time, for her career as a teacher was interrupted after one and a quarter years by external circumstances, when Hong Kong fell to the Japanese invasion, and her school was closed. It was after the war, and after a brief period working for the Government in Social Welfare, that Pauline Chan began her career in industry. She was invited to join the administrative staff of the Hong Kong Rubber Manufactory Limited, and started to work with Dr. Haking Wong on Christmas Eve, 1945. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful association.

Miss Chan's first big opportunity came when a delegation from Nanking came to Hong Kong for tenders for half a million pairs of canvas shoes. Of the half-a-dozen manufacturers' representatives, she alone spoke Mandarin, and this contributed to her success in obtaining the order. As a result, she was promoted to be Business Manager of the Company.

The next opportunity that presented itself was The enormous market in the region for nylon filled toothbrushes. Two automatic toothbrush making machines were installed in small premises near here in Sai Ying Pun, and Pauline Chan had to learn the manufacturing process, and take charge of overseas sales promotion. In 1949, she went into partnership with Dr. Wong in establishing W. Haking Industries (Brushworks) Limited and became its Managing Director. In the course of three short years, a production level of around a quarter of a million toothbrushes a day was reached. But other competitors in the region began to follow this lead, and with her fine-tuned discontent, Pauline Chan realized that the future did not lie with toothbrushes. The company motto had become 'run fast, run far', and it was necessary to find some other fields in which to run. In 1957, Dr. Wong and Pauline Chan together decided to enter the field of optical manufacturing. This was a landmark in the development of industry in Hong Kong. The Haking Group of companies was not only the first to enter the field of optical and photographic manufacturing, but a forerunner in precision engineering in Hong Kong.

The beginning, however, was difficult. For the enterprise had to start from nothing. There was no skilled labour in Hong Kong familiar with the required techniques, and little or no pool of expertise at a higher level. It was necessary not only to recruit Japanese technicians - but for Pauline Chan, yet again, to go back to school, among other things to learn about the methods for anodizing aluminium. For you have before you, Mr. Chancellor, a person who is not simply an industrial investor, not simply a good saleswoman, an efficient works manager, or a considerate personnel manager; rather you see a person who believes that to run a factory, you must be all of these things: you must know. and understand and sympathize with your workers, you must grasp the management of complex processes, you must cultivate good relations with your customers, and you must be willing to stake your own resources. But above all, you must acquire a detailed knowledge and understanding of the materials to be used, the manufacturing processes and special techniques to be applied. Mastering these techniques was a new challenge for Pauline Chan. But for three and a half years, the new company lost money, and everything that had been gained from toothbrushes was at first lost in optics. But perseverence and hard work prevailed. And today, Mr. Chancellor, the Haking Group of companies of which Pauline Chan is a permanent governing director, companies which started with just a few employees, little expertise and a lot of hope a quarter of a century ago, this group of companies has scored an astonishing success. It now operates fifteen manufacturing plants which are not simple assembly plants, but in which all the manufacturing processes necessary for the finished products are carried out simultaneously. It has research, development and design teams in Hong Kong, Japan, and the U.S.A. It has manufacturing targets in the region of 5,000 pairs of binoculars and 30,000 cameras per day. It is the largest manufacturer of 'private label' optical and photographic equipment in the world. And last year's group turnover was in the region of HK$700,000,000. This group of companies has become, in short, a model of the best in Hong Kong enterprise.

Mr. Chancellor, there is not a deep gulf between Pauline Chan's early ambitions in medicine and education and her later achievements in the world of industry. For she sees them all as concerned with the advancement of the human condition. She has made many generous donations to educational establishments both here in Hong Kong, and in Britain, and she has sat on various Government committees, including the Trade and Industry Advisory Board, the Corruption Prevention Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on Environment Pollution, the Trade Development Council, and many others. In 1972, she received the O.B.E., in 1976 she was made an Unofficial Justice of the Peace of Hong kong, in 1982 she was elected an Honorary Fellow of St. Hilda's College, Oxford, and in 1984 she was appointed a member of the Council of this University.

Mr. Chancellor, William Lecky wrote as follows a century ago in his 'History of European Morals', "An immense revolution has taken place in the chief spheres of female industry. The progress of machinery has destroyed its domestic character. The needle is being rapidly superseded, and the work which, from the days of Homer to the present century, was accomplished in the centre of the family, has beentransferred to the crowded manufactory". This development of industry, and this revolution in the role of women, foreseen a century ago in Europe by Lecky, has been splendidly exemplified in our own time by Pauline Chan here in Hong Kong. Mr. Chancellor, for her contribution to industry in Hong Kong since the Second World War, I present to you Miss Pauline Chan, O.B.E., J.P., ingenious manufacturer, foresighted entrepreneur, educational benefactor, lover of languages, beneficent employer, and 'discontentist' from whom we may all learn, for the award of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.