Dr Henry Cheng is one of Hong Kong’s most prominent business leaders who has achieved outstanding success in a diversified range of businesses whilst at the same time making a great contribution to good causes. In particular, spurred on by his belief that education creates lasting change to people’s lives, he has given very generous support to educational projects in both Hong Kong and the Mainland. He also has a very impressive record of generous support for the alleviation of poverty.
Henry was born in a small village in Shun Tak in Mainland China in 1946 and spent his early childhood there. He moved with his family to Hong Kong in 1953 and completed his schooling at Salesian School in Shau Ki Wan.
He then continued his studies in Canada where he received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business.
The son of Dato’ Dr Cheng Yu Tung, Henry joined his father’s immensely prosperous New World Development Company Limited (`New World Development’), a property development company which had been established in 1970 and listed in Hong Kong two years later. Henry was appointed a director in 1972, an executive director in 1973 and took over the role of Managing Director from his father in 1989. Henry now holds the position of Chairman and Executive Director of New World Development.
Henry also joined Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Company Limited in May 1971 serving as a director until he assumed the role of Vice-Chairman in 2007. Following the successful listing of the Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group last year, he became Chairman and Executive Director of the Group.
Henry has made strenuous efforts to diversify his company’s business pursuits especially in Mainland China. Indeed New World Development was one of the first Hong Kong property developers to enter the Mainland market and has extended its scope of operations from first tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong to second and third tier cities such as Chengdu and Changsha.
The number of prestigious business positions he holds are truly breathtaking spanning property development, hotel management, infrastructure and the running of department stores.
It is not, however, his business acumen that we are celebrating today. We are here to give deserved recognition to his outstanding charitable work and his efforts towards fostering closer ties between Hong Kong and the Mainland.
In the latter respect in 1995 Henry was instrumental in the creation of the Better Hong Kong Foundation whose primary aim is to foster greater understanding between East and West and has been Chairman of its Advisory Council since its inception.
Investing in Mainland China and witnessing at first hand the changes in the Mainland reinforced Henry’s belief in the critical importance of education in helping China develop. He was also acutely aware of the importance of providing assistance to the underprivileged in both Hong Kong and Mainland China enabling them to rise from poverty and move up the social ladder.
Henry has put his philosophy into practice in many ways. In particular he has played and continues to play a prominent role in nurturing talent and future leaders of the society.
In 1998, in collaboration with the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business, he established the Cheng Yu Tung Management Institute in Hong Kong to further exemplify his own commitment and also honour his father’s dedication to education. The Institute was opened in 1998 to provide quality interactive training to outstanding business leaders across Asia.
Our University has received considerable support from the Cheng Yu Tung Foundation (`the Foundation’). The Dr Cheng Yu Tung Fellowships programme at the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine was established in 1997 and since that time more than 250 medical professionals have benefitted from it.
Recognising the importance of educational infrastructure, in March 2008 the Foundation made an extremely generously donation for the development of our University’s Centennial Campus as well as for academic development and research in the Faculty of Law. Henry envisages that his largesse will not only benefit the development of the Faculty, but also contribute to the maintenance of the rule of law and to our community’s prosperity in general.
Mr Chancellor, I am happy to report that the new Centennial Campus is already in operation. The building in which the Law Faculty and indeed my own office is situated was named the Cheng Yu Tung Tower in recognition of this generous endowment by Henry’s family. I have a personal interest in both the Campus and Faculty and would like to take this opportunity to give my personal thanks to the Foundation.
Henry has been equally generous in supporting Mainland’s educational projects. He established the New World/Harvard Kennedy School of Government Fellows Programme in 1998, which subsequently earned him the Award of Yan Huang by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs in 2006.
Further, Henry joined up with Field Medalist Professor Yau Shing Tung to found the New World Mathematics Award presented every three years to outstanding mathematical students of Chinese descent.
Henry and his family’s sincere commitment to education is clear.
To quote his words:
'Giving back to society has always been at the heart of our family. It is our commitment. We believe in education as we have witnessed how it has helped the city grow and our people rise out of poverty to enjoy a better living. We will continue to give our full support to education and grooming young people for the betterment of Hong Kong and Mainland China.'
Henry and his family are equally devoted to humanitarian causes. He donated the seed funding for the Wu Zhi Qiao (Bridge to China) Charitable Foundation in 2007 to help mobilise university students, professionals and volunteers to implement sustainable bridge projects in poor and remote areas in the Mainland. Henry’s concept is that the project not only assists villagers in rural areas but also instills in our younger generation a sense of responsibility.
In 2008, as a result of Henry’s initiative, the Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation was established. By way of funding and voluntary service he leads the Foundation in its support of a variety of charitable projects in youth education and training, medical care and furthering arts and culture in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Macau, the USA and other territories across the globe. He now serves as Honorary Chairman of the Foundation. He was awarded the China Charity Award in 2009 by the Ministry of Civil Affairs which is one of the highest honours bestowed by the People’s Republic of China in recognition of his diverse contributions to the Country.
More specifically Henry was most active in supporting relief work following the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Apart from making a sizeable donation on behalf of the Cheng family, he also called upon his staff of the New World Group and Chow Tai Fook to support the relief efforts by donating blood, fund raising and sending daily commodities to the affected area.
Henry was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Laws from his alma mater, the University of Western Ontario, in 1997. He is now a member of the John Harvard Fellows, a member of the Advisory Committee for Harvard Asia Center, a member of the Advisory Board of the University of Alberta in Canada and Honorary Trustee of Tsinghua University in China.
In 2001 he was awarded a Gold Bauhinia Star by the Government of the HKSAR and in 2005 the Legion of Honour by the French Government. In 2008 he was elected a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
As we have seen Henry’s great and deep involvement in education and the alleviation of poverty demonstrates how strongly he feels for the hardships endured by the underprivileged as the gap between rich and poor widens. His exemplary charitable works clearly show the commitment of Henry and his family to the betterment of both Hong Kong and the Mainland. By his works he has proved himself an admirable citizen of Hong Kong and Mainland China.
It is my honour and privilege to present to you Henry Cheng Kar Shun for the award of Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa.
Citation written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator of the University.