Citations and Speeches


127th Congregation (1986)

Peter Alan Lee VINE
O.E.B, V.R.D., LL.B.

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

Mr. Chancellor, an anonymous 13th century scholar-poet in Germany wrote these lines:

Si legisse memoras

Ethicam Catonis,

In qua scriptum legitur:

‘ambula cum bonis’,

cum ad dandi gloriam

animum disponis

supra cetera

primum hoc considera

quis sit dignus donis.

If you remember reading

How your duty stood,

And note the teacher’s pleading

‘walk only with the good’,

now set your mind to giving,

but first remember this,

who among the living

is worthy of your gifts?

This lively doggerel reminds us that a charitable mind, a generous intention, will not always suffice. Especially in our modern world, making a gift and making it effective, will often require the expert help of a lawyer.

Before you now Mr. Chancellor, stands Peter Alan Lee Vine, whose honourable and modest work has, like that of his fellow graduands, contributed valuably to Hong Kong society, not least in providing just such expert help. Mr. Vine had academic ambitions as a young man. But family circumstances prevented him from pursuing a University degree, and that was why he turned, in 1939, to a career in the Law. He was articled to Sir Alexander Pengilly in Weymouth, England. But this apprenticeship in the Law was interrupted by the Second World War, and in 1941, Mr. Vine joined the Royal Marines, as a volunteer. He attained the war service rank of Major, and served as gunnery officer in North Africa, Italy and the Far East. In 1945 he was on the staff of the Flag Officer, Malayan area. While he was in North Africa, Peter Vine could well have heard the old Arab saying: “men are molded by circumstance” and certainly this war experience was a further apprenticeship. Peter Vine saw human conduct in times of extreme crisis, he experienced touch of different cultures, he took on perforce new kinds of responsibility.

Mr. Chancellor, it may be said that all war is a crime. Yet even if we do accept going to war as at times a necessary expedient, however deplorable, we are powerfully drawn by the thought that a warrior in life must – like a hero in a novel of Jin Yong – be a moral man. Even in war, there are codes of conduct to be observed. In reality, though, wars have increasingly involved forms of barbarous conduct that appear worse than the barbarism of war itself. And we confront the important, if paradoxical, notion of war crimes.

The young Mr. Vine served in connection with prosecutions for war crimes in Singapore, and was seconded to Hong Kong in 1946 in the difficult role of War Crimes Prosecutor. It is, I believe, a mark of esteem in which he must have been held that so difficult a task was given to so young a man with limited legal experience.

At all events, it was so that he was introduced to the place that was to become his home. After so unusual an apprenticeship as his war service in the Royal Marines, an education – it may be – as important to his personal development as any University course would have been, though in a different way, Peter Vine nevertheless returned to conventional study, and obtained the degree of Bachelor of Laws externally from the University of London. He was admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong in 1947.

As a partner of (and now consultant for) Deacons, said to be the oldest firm of solicitors in Hong Kong, Mr. Vine has come to have three important roles in Hong Kong.

First, the respect gained has led to his membership of the Board of some 40 commercial enterprises in Hong Kong.

Secondly, he has been much in demand to serve in various capacities for charitable organizations, including the Investment Advisory Committee of the Sir David Trench Fund for Recreation, the Investment and Endowment Committee of the Community Chest of Hong Kong, the Aw Boon Haw Foundation, but above all as Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank Hong Kong Trustee Ltd.

Mr. Chancellor, Peter Vine is an unassuming person who avoids publicity, but his role in these capacities in charitable work in Hong Kong has been a contribution of substantial importance, recalling to us the lines of the old poet of the Carmina Burana.

But let me turn to a third crucial role that he fulfilled. From 1962 to 1964 he was President of the Law Society of Hong Kong. And up to that time, there had been no legal education in Hong Kong. In wholly colonial fashion, legal practitioners had to take English examinations to become qualified to practice in Hong Kong.

In his presidential address to the Law Society in 1962, Mr. Vine said: “Perhaps one day the University of Hong Kong will have a Faculty of Law, and, now that a recognized first degree in Law gives exemption from the First Part of our qualifying Examinations, I hope that the Senate and Council of the University, and Honourable Financial Secretary, will take note that the absence of a degree course in Law is placing local University students at a disadvantage by comparison with their counterparts in England”.

This initiative towards providing legal education in Hong Kong itself, was an important step. The government and the University responded, and in 1969 a Department of Law was established. But there remained the crucial question of providing for local examinations to qualify for entry as a barrister or solicitor in Hong Kong, and coordinating these with the work of the new Department of Law.

A working party was appointed, and Mr. Vine served on it. When these matters were satisfactorily settled, Mr. Vine continued to offer his help and advice, serving as a member of the Advisory Committee on Legal Education, and on the Board of Studies of the School of Law.

By now some 600 graduates have emerged from our own system, and Mr. Vine has played an important role in helping to establish Hong Kong’s own legal identity through his first initiative in 1962, and his subsequent active help and advice about its further development.

Mr. Chancellor, the importance of this development cannot be underestimated. Not only are many promising young citizens of Hong Kong now able to enter a legal career for whom in the old days such a career could not have been contemplated, for financial reasons. But also the provision of legal education in Hong Kong has helped to lead to and confirm a certain identity for Hong Kong law, such that it can no longer be thought of as simply colonial; and it therefore represents an important component in the future development of Hong Kong after 1997.

Mr. Chancellor, for his contribution to the development of legal education in Hong Kong and his activity in charitable work, I present to you Peter Alan Lee Vine, Order of the British Empire, holder of the Volunteer Reserve Decoration naval award, Justice of the Peace, well-known solicitor and notary public, quiet benefactor, advocate of the advance of legal education in Hong Kong, for the award of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.