Citations and Speeches


171st Congregation (2005)

Donald TSANG Yam Kuen
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws

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

A third generation Hong Kong citizen, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen faced considerable hardship and difficulties in his early years when he was growing up in fifties Hong Kong. From humble beginnings, he worked hard to build a better life for himself and his family, and rose steadily through the different hierarchies of society till today, he has reached the topmost echelon of leadership. His social ascendance bears witness to the achievements of modern Hong Kong, his story, one of Hong Kong's most outstanding success stories.

Educated at Wah Yan College, Donald Tsang spent happy years at school. Apart from the undoubted benefits of the academic curriculum, his alma mater allowed him a great deal of freedom in participating in extra-curricular activities. Through this participation, he developed his interest in social issues, an interest that was grounded upon firm ethical principles that the school inculcated in its students. Beyond classroom knowledge, it is these principles which would stand him in good stead and guide him as he confronted the challenges of his career.

Joining the Hong Kong Civil Service in 1967, Donald Tsang has held many positions in the government dealing with local administration, finance, trade, and policies relating to the return of Hong Kong to China. In 1977, he was attached to the Asian Development Bank in Manila for a year where he worked on water supply and railway development projects in the Philippines and Bangladesh. In his career, he gained considerable experience and insight into Hong Kong, and also learned to view the local situation internationally, in comparative context with other developing territories. Further education at Harvard University where he gained a Master's degree in Public Administration in 1982 enabled him not only to acquire valuable knowledge of econometrics and modern managerial techniques but to build up networks with scholars and professionals from many other countries. To this day, he has maintained these networks, a testimony to his ability to cultivate and nurture long-term friendships that are mutually inspiring and supportive.

Between 1985 and 1989, as Deputy Secretary of the General Duties Branch, Mr Tsang was one of those responsible for the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. He worked tirelessly towards promoting understanding between Hong Kong and mainland China, bridge-building work which he saw and continues to see as central to his service to the HKSAR. At the same time, he devoted his energies to improving the livelihood of Hong Kong's citizens, and as Director-General of Trade between 1991 and 1993, he was responsible for all facets of trade negotiation and administration affecting one of the crucial economic platforms of Hong Kong's success.

In 1993, he assumed responsibility as Secretary for the Treasury, and in 1995, was appointed Financial Secretary, the first Chinese to hold this position after 150 years of British incumbents. Knighted in 1997, Sir Donald Tsang became the first Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong SAR. In 2001, he was appointed Chief Secretary of Administration, and in 2002, received the Grand Bauhinia Medal from the HKSAR. He has, of course, much more yet to contribute in his service to Hong Kong.

It was in 1998, during his time as Financial Secretary, that he faced one of the most profound challenges of his career, when he had to take the lead in adopting interventionist measures to protect Hong Kong's financial economy. He found himself struggling against his long-held beliefs in a free market economy, and for someone of such unshaken principle as Donald Tsang, the struggle was intense and brought him close to the brink of self-doubt. In these dark hours, the words of the great Catholic scholar Matteo Ricci, would have provided Donald Tsang with support and inspiration. In one of his works written in Chinese, Ricci says, 'Accidental encounters with difficulties are not what I wish for; nor are they what I can avoid. To deal with them intelligently so as to achieve the best possible outcome - that is the question. If the chances for winning are there, most men can win. But if the chances are not there, and yet through skill, victory is still achieved, that is because intelligence can be used to change what at first looked likely to fail.'


Ricci's writings and example, which first inspired Donald Tsang as a young student, have ever remained his inspiration and support throughout his career. The great distance between the Jesuit scholar and the Hong Kong public servant is bridged by themes of integrity and commitment. In trying to put into practice the ideals of his spiritual mentor so that the interest of Hong Kong can be better served, Donald Tsang finds his greatest challenge and greatest satisfaction. Mr Pro-Chancellor, for his faithful service to Hong Kong, it is my honour and privilege to present Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for the award of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.