Citations and Speeches


175th Congregation (2007)

Thomas CHAN Sze Tong
M.B.B.S (H.K.), MBA, F.H.K.A.M. (Surg.), F.C.S.H.K., F.R.C.S. (In Surgical Neurology), F.R.C.S. (Edin), F.R.C.S. (Glasg), JP, Honorary Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences

The Public Orator, Professor Gabriel M Leung MD, MPH, CCFP, FFPH, FHKCCM, FHKAM, wrote and delivered the following citation:

"Let there be light", so commanded our Lord in the beginning. "Mehr licht" were by tradition Goethe's last words. Light has been of the foremost importance in all of human existence. Our next honorand this evening has selflessly dedicated the better part of his career to shining the light of humanity on thousands of disadvantaged children. As head of the Chinese and East Asian operations of World Vision, Dr Thomas Chan Sze Tong has been the bearer of the torch of aid to many helpless families in our region since 1996.

A most eminent agent of Aesculapius, our honorand began his work with children as a paediatric neurosurgeon. Caring for sick children suffering from conditions ranging from cerebral arteriovenous malformations to sparganosis of the brain, Chan came to appreciate and apply Juvenal's words first hand, "maxima debetur puero reverentia" (A child is owed the highest respect). So today we in turn pay homage to Chan's deeds through his healing hands and generous heart, for in him the arts of civility and of medicine have found their fullest expression.

Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.

Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.

If Thou, O Lord, shalt observe iniquities; Lord, who shall endure it?

These verses from Psalm 130 or De profundis, may have motivated our Methodist honorand to look beyond the dissecting microscope to the theatre of the world. Chan personifies the Christian mission of World Vision by alleviating human suffering in a world that is still plagued by so many menaces and perils. One might mention Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death - the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. But the most monstrous and the origin of all evils are surely poverty and inequity. To this end Chan has spared no effort especially in his enlightened prescription for intergenerational poverty.

Whereas our honorand has built schools, offered scholarships, trained teachers and taught parents to tackle the root cause of such poverty in the neediest communities, Chan has also continued to exercise his firm belief in education on himself. Medically qualified, he recently earned a Master's of Business Administration from the UST-Kellogg executive programme. In fact his quest for learning continues to this day as a doctoral student at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Our honorand has accumulated a stock of stories from his years of humanitarian work. I will with your permission relate a couple. In the county of Yongsheng (永勝) in northern Yunnan, basic infrastructure work such as well digging has freed women villagers from carrying buckets to and from water sources. This has allowed them time to produce folk handicrafts in a cooperative enterprise that has enriched their entire community. Above all, as a happy by-product of the wells, this simple works project has elevated the status of women in the remote rural county as their income now exceeds that of their farmer husbands. Further west in the province along the Burmese border, Chan recalled chatting with a thirteen-year-old AIDS orphan whose empty gaze of hopelessness provided all the justification for his raison d'être. By lending technical training and subsidies, he and his team gave back hope, even only a glimmer, that all children are rightfully due.

Magnanimous in nature and gentle as the children he helps, Chan has brought sympathy and pity to those in the depths of misery. Thirty years have lapsed since our honorand first became a part of the HKU family when he earned a double bachelors' in medicine and surgery. For his defence of the defenceless, his understanding of the misunderstood, and his humanity where conditions are inhumane, I ask you Mr Pro Chancellor, to again welcome Dr Thomas Chan Sze Tong, JP to the Convocation by conferring on him the degree of Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa.