The Honorary Graduates

115th Congregation (1982)

LO Kwee Seong
Doctor of Laws honoris causa


Citation

The Public Orator Dr. Arnold Chia-Loh Hsieh, B.SC., M.D., D.SC., wrote and delivered the following citation:

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present Lo Kwee Seong for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

I am not sure if Lo Kwee Seong believes in fate or predestination. If he does not, then he might agree with me that his life has been so strongly influenced by a series of fortuitous events and incidents that his appearance before your Excellency this evening is quite accidental. Lo Kwee Seong was born in Kwangtung just over seventy-two years ago. He went to Malaya with his mother when he was ten years old and came to Hong Kong ten years later. His ambition was to go to China to study civil engineering. But, fortunately for us, his family could not afford to send him there. His, father's employer offered a scholarship provided Kwee Seong went to the University of Hong Kong and studied business and commerce. And so it came to pass that Lo Kwee Seong graduated in 1935 from this University with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

After graduation he joined the company of his patron and was soon appointed Hong Kong manager of the real estate branch of the firm. It was on a business trip to Shanghai in 1937 that he accidentally attended a talk entitled 'Soybeans: the cow of China'. The message that the bean had been used as a source of nutrition in China for thousands of years fell on fertile ground, took root and sprouted two years later when he was doing volunteer work at the Argyle Street refugee camp in 1939. He was appalled by the poor nutritional state of the refugees and the soybean came to mind. With a group of friends he raised some money to buy a stone grinder, soybeans, brown sugar and cheese-cloth and got the refugees to produce their own supplementary food. The results convinced him that this cheap source of nutrition was the answer to Hong Kong's food problem and he decided to go into the soybean milk business. He set up a factory in Causeway Bay in 1940 but, while he was able to sell up to 1,000 bottles a day, at six cents a bottle there was just not enough revenue to cover expenses and by December 1941 he was broke.

With the coming of the War to Hong Kong, Lo Kwee Seong and his family found themselves refugees in the town of Lingshan, on the border between Kwangtung and Kwangsi. What was good for the refugees in Hong Kong proved good for the refugees in Lingshan - for the Lo family supported themselves by selling soybean milk. His fifth child, born in Lingshan, was brought up on soybean milk. After meeting that former soybean baby, I am moved to say that there need be no better proof of its efficiency. After the War, Lo Kwee Seong relocated his factory to Aberdeen and this led to his involvement in the affairs of the Aberdeen Kaifong Association. Thus began his long and successful career in community service. His activities on the Kaifong Association attracted the attention of members of the Town Planning Board and led to his appointment to the Urban Council and eventually the Legislative Council. One could say that the accidental location of his factory led him into public service but one cannot escape feeling that the availability of opportunity was matched by willingness and ability on the part of the individual. He is a past president of the Y's Men's Club, the Rotary Club Hong Kong Island West, and past chairman of the Cheshire Home for the Disabled. He has served on numerous councils and boards, including the Air Transport Licensing Board, Civil Aviation Advisory Board, Trade Development Council, and the Consumer Council. He has also been a member of the University Court and Council.

Lo Kwee Seong is most proud of his services on the Consumer Council because of its impact on the quality of life in Hong Kong. He helped to develop the Council into a centre for product testing, information transfer, consumer advice and consumer protection. His concern for the protection of the consumer has led him to push for legislation on trade descriptions and on weights and measures, with varying success. The problem of short weights and measures touches all members of the society. Lo Kwee Seong likes to tell the story of the Honourable Member of the Legislative Council who complained to him about paying for seven catties of papayas when in fact they only weighed five catties. In isolation this may seem a small matter. However the discrepancy of two catties, considering the number of papayas sold each year, can run into thousands of catties and the mind is boggled by the thought of thousands of people busily buying thousands of non-existent papayas.

Lo Kwee Seong is a well-known collector and student of Chinese ceramics and has recently generously donated his entire collection of Chinese teaware, amounting to about 500 pieces, to the Urban Council. His expertise in Yixing ware has led to an invitation to write a book on the topic and he is currently on local leave from his business in order to complete the manuscript. All this has developed from a chance appointment to a sub-committee of the Urban Council. It appears that the senior official member of the Urban Council was in the habit of making appointments without much consultation and Lo Kwee Seong was appointed to the sub-committee on the museum even though he knew nothing about pottery, porcelain or ceramics. It was during a visit to his home of a group of experts whose advice he had sought that one of them commented on the poor quality of his modest collection, in fact, I believe the word 'junk' was used. He decided to learn more about the subject and so yet another fortuitous incident resulted in Lo Kwee Seong becoming one of the foremost champions for the cause of fine arts in Hong Kong.

Mr. Chancellor, for his public service Lo Kwee Seong has been honoured by Her Majesty with the O.B.E. in 1971 and the C.B.E. in 1978; for his public service and his generous and sustained support of fine arts in Hong Kong, the University would likewise like to honour him and I request Your Excellency to confer upon Lo Kwee Seong, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.


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