Citations and Speeches


127th Congregation (1986)

Louis CHA
O.B.E., LL.B.

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

Mr. Chancellor, I should like you to picture a Lunar New Year celebration in the 1930s in Hangzhou. The Cha family is together, and his uncles are telling the young Cha Liangyong the traditional stories of the family's ancestors. They tell him of the poet, Zha Shenxing, and his brother Zha Siting, Deputy Minister for Ceremonies, and thus responsible for the imperial examinations. This brother, charged with the examinations in Nanchang, set the following subject for composition in 1726: 'Keep the people at rest'.

This was seen as seditious, since the first and last characters behead the two characters of the Emperor's reign title, Hie Yung Zheng. For this symbolic disloyalty, the Deputy Minister was sent to prison with his brothers, where he died. Perhaps the uncles of the young Cha Liangyong thought to teach him by a cautionary tale the wisdom of conforming to authority. Instead, this ancestor took on the aura of a free-thinking hero in the boy's mind.

Mr. Chancellor, you will see how the achievements of Mr. Cha have echoed and advanced the work of those brothers, poet and minister, of whom he first heard as a boy long again Hangzhou.

His first steps took him towards public life, and he studied International Law at the Law School of Suzhou, graduating in 1948. He was then twenty-four, and he intended to prepare himself for a career as a diplomat. To help support himself during his studies, he had already in 1947 begun to work as a journalist and translator for the newspaper Ta Kung Pao, in Shanghai. In 1948, he came to Hong Kong to work for the same paper's Hong Kong office. But in 1953, China adopted the Soviet model of administration, in which any opposition to the leadership had to be seen as counter-revolutionary. Free-thinking became impossible, and in its place, to his dismay, Mr. Cha saw persecution and injustice. In 1956, however, Mao Zedong expressed doubts about the Soviet model, and called for a policy of 'letting a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred schools of thought contend'. This policy got under way in the first part of 1957, but in the later part of the year it was suddenly halted, and criticism of the authorities by intellectuals was brought to an abrupt end.

Mr. Cha left Ta Kung Pao, and went to work for the Great Wall film company. This was a new venture for him, but in a short time, Mr. Cha learned something of the art of cinema, and became a writer of screenplays and a film director. In 1958, he wrote and directed the film:Pride and Prejudice, an adaptation to Hong Kong society of Jane Austen's splendid story of a free-thinking young woman.

A hundred blooms in China had withered and died away; but the blooms of Mr. Cha's talents had begun to unfold. In 1955 he began to write: Book and Sword; Gratitude and Revenge the first of his fourteen novels. These famous novels, Mr. Chancellor, are tales of chivalry and martial arts, of valiant heroes and memorable heroines. The typical setting shows a Song emperor, an incompetent ruler, surrounded by corrupt, servile and cruel officials, while the people are threatened by the invading Mongols. They are not simply tales of fighting; the emphasis lies on heroic character. One of his heroes, Kwok Ching, says: "The true hero is one who loves his country, and whose heart is with the people. But these tales are also love stories, in which fidelity and self-sacrifice are the supreme marks of love". Jin Yong (to use Mr. Cha's pen-name) characterized this by his adaptation of a line of the thirteenth century poet, Yuen Hou Man, a line which commiserates with those who do not realize what love is, and do not realize that it is a commitment unto death.

These novels, Mr. Chancellor, have become probably the most widely read novels among the modern Chinese reading public. Our own students will often stay up all night to read them. The older style in such historical novels concentrated on action, period flavour, supernatural interventions. But Jin Yong created a new and modern style: limpid, mellifluous, approachable, elegant. In 1957, the early success of his fictional writing encouraged him to set up (using the revenue accumu-lated from it) a small newspaper, with a staff of four, including himself and the messenger, and with an initial circulation of 6,000. At that time, the main selling point of the paper was the serialization of Mr. Cha's novels. He called it Ming Pao.

After some time, he left the Great Wall company, and devoted himself to his newspaper, which was quickly gaining in circulation and popularity. Mr. Cha was an admirer of another editor, Alistair Scott of the Manchester Guardian, and his own newspaper too began to be known for radicalism, free-thinking and independence. In 1966, came the 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution'.

Mr. Chancellor, we all know how tyranny and injustice can flourish in human affairs. They can occur even in an institution like a university; how much more readily can they flourish in a large community with radical ideas and unbridled central power! As the French thinker, Pascal put it: 'La justice sans la force est impuissante; la force sans la justice est tyrannique'. 'Justice without power is impotent; power without justice is tyranny.' Remembering, perhaps, the stories of his ancestor Zha Siting, Mr. Cha began to speak out. His editorials in Ming Pao manifested the thinking man's cricitisms of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. But these excesses involved more than injustice: as Cha Liangyong then perceived it, they threatened destruction to the traditions of Chinese culture which he cherished. In 1966, the Ming Pao monthly was established, with the express intention of helping to preserve and maintain those traditions.

As a result of these activities, Mr. Cha became a marked man, to the point that he had to be put under police protection, to preserve his life. Mr. Chancellor, it is our good fortune that he did not suffer the fate of his ancestor, the Deputy Minister. We have his films. We have his newspapers. Ming Pao by now has a circulation of some 150,000, including a North American edition. We have his editorials, sometimes controversial, often foresighted, frequently radical, widely attended to. There is indeed a fascinating collection of his editorials on the question of Hong Kong's future written over a period of years leading up to the Joint Agreement between Britain and China about the future of Hong Kong, which has been published both in Chinese and in English. But Louis Cha is also a translator. He has put into Chinese works as varied as 'Un Art de Vivre' by Andre Maurois, the short stories of Damon Runyan, selected essays of Bertrand Russell and the Dhammapada, from the Buddhist canon.

Mr. Cha's public service includes working on the Citizens' Advisory Committee of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and the Law Reform Commission. He is also a member of the Basic Law Drafting Committee.

Perhaps, Mr. Chancellor, I may borrow some famous words of the poet Horace, written in the early years of our era: "iustum et tenacem propositi virumnon civium ardor prava iubentium non vultus instantis tyranni mente quatit solida..."

"The man of justice, who holds to his principles,is not shaken by the misguided enthusiasm of fellow citizens who want to be on his side, nor by the visage of an impending tyrant; he has a solid mind..."

Mr. Chancellor, for his contribution to the development of society in Hong Kong as publisher, journalist, novelist, political commentator and through service on numerous public bodies, I present to you Louis Cha, Order of the British Empire, Chairman and President of Ming Pao Daily News Limited, Bachelor of Laws, Cha Liangyong, unshaken and solid in his mind, scholar of Buddhism, inventive translator, film director, free-thinking patriot, Jin Yong, stylish romancer who has brought pleasure to millions - I present to you a man of many parts and a friend of justice and truth, for the award of the degree of Doctor of Social Sciences, honoris causa.