Citations and Speeches


169th Congregation (2004)

Darwin CHEN
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences

The Public Orator, Dr Elaine Yee-lin Ho, wrote and delivered the following citation:

Darwin Chen was born in Shanghai and attended Diocesan Boys' School in Hong Kong. He obtained a B.A. degree with First Class Honours from the University of London in 1960. After working as a journalist and school teacher, Darwin Chen began a 32-year career in the Hong Kong civil service when he became Manager of the newly-built City Hall, and from the 1970s, he was Director of Cultural Services. These were the years which witnessed Hong Kong's rapid economic expansion, and Darwin Chen worked tirelessly to promote popular involvement in the arts so that the city's cultural capital would be enriched beyond its accumulation of wealth.

At City Hall and Cultural Services, Mr Chen firmly believed that the Government's role was to act as a bridge-builder between artists and audience. He brought to fruition numerous projects, including a subsidy scheme for local performing arts presentations, the professionalization of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Academy of Ballet. This was followed by the founding of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, the Hong Kong Dance Company, and the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre.

The establishment of these professional bodies and improvements to venue facilities and their public access opened up the space of art and culture and enabled more people to become involved as performers or audience. The projects culminated in the formulation and implementation of a Government arts policy with three aims: the provision of arts facilities in all parts of Hong Kong, the forming of professional companies to perform in these venues, and the cultivation of broad-based audiences for these venues and companies. Darwin Chen's leadership in the projects and active involvement in policy-making ensured that by the time he stepped down as Cultural Services Director in 1984, his early aim to be a bridge-builder was more than fully realized, to the lasting benefit of the cultural sector in Hong Kong as a whole.

From the mid-nineteen eighties, Darwin Chen continued to serve Hong Kong in different capacities: as Commissioner for Television and Entertainment Licensing, Deputy Secretary of Constitutional Affairs responsible for the drafting of the Basic Law, Commissioner for Labour and Director of Buildings and Lands. After his retirement from the Civil Service, between 1993 and 2000, he served as Chief Executive of the Community Chest and for each year, he helped to raise US$25m in donations. He continues to be Senior Advisor of the Community Chest, and is involved with two international charity organizations: as Vice President for Asia of United Way International of which the Chest is a member, and Vice Chair of the Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium with responsibility for North Asia. Complementing his philanthropic projects is his involvement in the formulation of social policy as member of the Social Welfare Advisory Committee.

But Darwin Chen has not turned his back on his mission as bridge-builder for arts and culture. As Vice-Chairman and now Chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, and in a number of other related roles, he promotes dialogue and understanding between artists and the community at large, including the engagement of private and corporate sector support for the arts. As part of this mission, he also devotes his time and energy to arts education and whole-person education. Consistent with his earlier involvement as a civil servant in the planning of the Academy of Performing Arts, Darwin Chen has contributed to the development of the former Extra Mural Dept of HKU into the School of Professional and Continuing Education, and now serves as Chairman of the Management Board of the School.

In his civil service and public sector career, Darwin Chen has served Hong Kong with distinction but always with self-effacing grace and modesty. But his devotion and leadership are appreciated by many who have worked with him in the past thirty years. In recognition of his service to Hong Kong past and present, Darwin Chen was made a Companion of the Imperial Service Order in 1990, and awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star by the Chief Executive of the HKSAR in 2003. Mr Pro-Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to present Darwin Chen for the award of the Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences, honoris causa.