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HKU holds the 186th Congregation to confer Honorary Degrees upon four outstanding individuals

March 15, 2012

Dr the Honourable David Li Kwok Po, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), conferred honorary degrees upon four outstanding individuals at the 186th Congregation today (March 15) in Loke Yew Hall, HKU.

Honorary Degrees are awarded to individuals in recognition of their distinguished service and commitment to the University, the community, and to academia. They are also conferred to those who have made valuable intellectual, social and cultural contributions to society and the world.

The honorary degree recipients are:

Doctor of Laws honoris causa
Aung San Suu Kyi (in absentia)

Doctor of Science honoris causa
Leszek Krzysztof BORYSIEWICZ
John Craig VENTER
XU Zhihong

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi received the honorary degree in absentia. She presented a video message at Loke Yew Hall upon accepting the degree.

Meanwhile, Dr John Craig Venter had presented a public lecture entitled "From Reading to Writing the Genetic Code" at the University before the ceremony. The lecture was the fifth Shirley Boyde Memorial Lecture organised by the Department of Biochemistry of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine.



Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, is a world-renowned figure who symbolises the struggle of Burma's people to be free. She was born in 1945, the daughter of Burma's independence hero, General Aung San, who was assassinated when she was two years old.

Aung San Suu Kyi was educated in Burma, India, and the United Kingdom. After living for many years in Oxford, she returned to Burma in 1988 to nurse her dying mother. She soon became engaged in the country's nationwide democracy uprising, which the military regime suppressed with brute force. She was a key figure in forming a new pro-democracy party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

As NLD General Secretary, Aung San Suu Kyi gave numerous speeches calling for freedom and democracy. Her party won the 1990 general election in a landslide victory, but was not allowed to take power. Aung San Suu Kyi herself was placed under house arrest in 1989, and spent 15 of the next 20 years in detention.

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and was finally released from house arrest in 2010.

In May 2011, Aung San Suu Kyi had a dialogue with HKU students, staff and alumni through a real-time televised broadcast as a featured speaker of the Centenary Distinguished Lecture series.

In recognition of her commitment to non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights, the University has resolved to confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.


Leszek Krzysztof BORYSIEWICZ
Leszek Krzysztof BORYSIEWICZ

Professor Sir Leszek Krzysztof Borysiewicz is the 345th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

Sir Leszek was Chief Executive of the UK's Medical Research Council from 2007 to 2010. From 2001 to 2007, he was at Imperial College London, as Principal of the Faculty of Medicine and later as Deputy Rector, responsible for the overall academic and scientific direction of the institution. He led the development of inter-disciplinary research between engineering, physical sciences and biomedicine.

In 1988, he was a Lecturer in Medicine at Cambridge. He went on to be Professor of Medicine at the University of Wales in Cardiff, where he led a research team that carried out pioneering work on vaccines. In particular, his unit in Cardiff conducted clinical trials for a therapeutic vaccine for human papillomavirus (a cause of cervical cancer) - the first in Europe. He was knighted in 2001 for services to medical research and education.

Sir Leszek was a founding Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1996 and a member of its Council from 1997 until 2002; and he became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2008.

In recognition of his contributions to medical research and society, the University has resolved to confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.


John Craig VENTER
John Craig VENTER

Dr John Craig Venter is Founder, Chairman, and President of the J Craig Venter Institute, a not-for-profit research organisation dedicated to human, microbial, plant, synthetic and environmental genomic research, and the exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics. He is also Founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Incorporated, a privately held company dedicated to commercialising genomicdriven solutions to address global needs, such as new sources of energy, new food and nutritional products, and next generation vaccines.

After earning both a Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and a PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California at San Diego, Dr Venter was appointed professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. In 1984, he moved to the National Institutes of Health campus where he developed Expressed Sequence Tags or ESTs, a revolutionary new strategy for rapid gene discovery.

In 1992, Dr Venter founded the Institute for Genomic Research, where in 1995 he and his team using their new technologies decoded the genome of the first free-living organism. In 1998, he founded Celera Genomics to sequence the human genome. Their successful results were published in the journal, Science in 2001.

Dr Venter and his team continue to blaze new trails in genomics, including creating the first self-replicating bacterial cell constructed entirely with synthetic DNA.

In recognition of his contributions to medical research and society, the University has resolved to confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.


XU Zhihong
XU Zhihong

Professor Xu Zhihong has served as President of Peking University and is currently a Professor in the College of Life Sciences at Peking University and in the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology (SIPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Professor Xu's research interests include plant development, plant cell culture and genetic manipulation, and plant biotechnology. He studied botany at Peking University, graduating in 1965. He joined SIPP at CAS as a graduate student in 1965 and, on graduating in 1969, began his academic career there. He was a visiting scholar at the John Innes Institute and Nottingham University in the UK from 1979 to 1981 respectively.

Professor Xu became the Deputy Director of SIPP in 1983 and Director in 1991. He was appointed Vice-President of CAS in 1992, and served as the 30th President of Peking University from 1999 to 2008.

At present, Professor Xu is an academician of CAS, a member of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, Chairman of UNESCO's Chinese National Committee of Man and of Biosphere, President of the Chinese Society of Plant Biology, and an Honorary Professor at HKU.

In recognition of his contributions to higher education and society, the University has resolved to confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.