Citations and Speeches


177th Congregation (2008)


Dr Chiang Chen's story is an epic illustration of the "rags to riches" story; the remarkable tale of a self-made man. Starting with a capital of only HKD200, he transformed his machine shop into the world's largest manufacturer of injection moulding machines. From that base he energetically devoted himself to the development of the manufacturing industry in China. At the same time he has shown himself to be a man of deep patriotic feeling.

Dr Chiang has great respect for the teachings of Confucius; in particular the philosopher's emphasis on the importance of love for the less fortunate and the qualities of generosity and sympathy. Confucius also stressed the importance of hard work when he said, "The expectations of life depend upon diligence." Dr Chiang has spent his life fulfilling these philosophies.

Dr Chiang, a native of Shandong Province, was born into a poor family in 1923. His parents died young and he grew up in poverty. He tells me that he only had four years of education and most of his early days were dominated by hunger and cold. He had, therefore, to rely upon self-education. One of his boyhood heroes was "Robin Hood" who notoriously robbed the rich to give to the poor. In later life Dr Chiang would come to emulate the good deeds of his boyhood hero without, I am pleased to report, resorting to criminal conduct. It was his own money that he gave to the poor.

In 1949 he left Shandong and ventured alone to Hong Kong. When he first arrived he took whatever work was available - working as a coolie in the docks, sweeping the floors in cotton mills and carrying rocks in the quarry in Kowloon City. Life was hard, but he retained faith in his own abilities. In 1956 he joined the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO) where he demonstrated his eagerness to learn. Two years later he established his own machine shop on the hunch that great opportunities lay in the plastics industry and, with his meager savings, began to conduct research into the production of plastic injection moulding machines. In 1966 he achieved his first breakthrough when he designed and manufactured the first locally-designed in line plastic injection moulding machine which was awarded the 'New Product Award' by the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong. Since then the Chen Hsong Group has grown to become one of the largest manufacturers of plastic injection moulding machines in the world. By these machines any plastic product can be manufactured and we have Dr Chiang to thank for our toys, household appliances, mobile phones and plastic cards.

Dr Chiang has never lost sight of his lowly roots, however, and has exhibited a passion for putting his considerable wealth to good use. Indeed, he now combines two successful careers: as industrialist and philanthropist. He is also very much a patriot. His deeply held philosophy is that a stable industrial foundation will make China prosperous and strong and that, to promote a stable industrial foundation, education and training are imperatives. By way of implementing his philosophy, in 1990 he made the remarkable gesture of donating all the shares he owned in the Chen Hsong Group to establish the Chiang Industrial Foundation (now named the Chiang Chen Industrial Charity Foundation) whose purpose is to encourage and facilitate the development and improvement of the manufacturing industry. To this end the Foundation, amongst its many roles, organizes diversified industrial training courses in co-ordination with government to foster industrial development in China. The Foundation has also sponsored numerous international conferences on manufacturing technology. Its enormous success and outreach can be judged by the fact that the Foundation has successfully trained more than 28,000 manufacturing professionals and executives in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States of America. The Foundation's work has become even more important as a result of China's accession to the World Trade Organization and the fact that China's manufacturing industry is experiencing breath-taking growth. Proper training, the understanding of international standards and the creation of a healthy business environment have proved fundamental to China's success, leading to a significant rise in the standard of living.

Dr Chiang had also contributed generously to institutions of higher learning. He has made donations to almost all the universities in Hong Kong and has funded countless scholarships to universities in Mainland China, particularly to facilitate students pursuing their studies in China or further studies overseas. What is even more exceptional is that his generosity has been warmly supported by all the members of his family who have energetically involved themselves in fulfilling the objects of his charitable foundation. Indeed he has made it clear that wealth should not be accumulated for the immediate family but should rather be used for the benefit of mankind.

Perhaps less is known of the private life of Dr Chiang. Living a vigorous life he has always espoused the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. He completed the entire Trailwalker in 1988 at the age of 65 years. He is also a keen dancer, especially of the tango and is affectionately known to his friends as 'the Dancing King'; Hong Kong's answer to John Travolta!

Dr Chiang has movingly summed up his own motivation. A few years ago he said: "I have just turned 80. For the further growth of the Foundation, I keep working hard each day. This is because I reckon that the path I have chosen is the right one. It is worthwhile. As a Chinese I wholeheartedly feel that it is most rewarding to repay my country, society and industry. I believe life is more meaningful when we offer ourselves to mankind and to society. With the concept of 'giving back to society' richness in all ways will be prolonged and sustained by our generosity and sharing. This is what I have learned from my life experience."

Dr Chiang's life and work are vividly exemplified by the words of Winston Churchill: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

Mr Pro-Chancellor, it is my honour and pleasure to present Dr Chiang Chen for the award of the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

Citations written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator.