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Dr. The Hon. TANG Ying-yen Henry

67th Congregation (2009)

Dr. The Hon. TANG Ying-yen Henry
Doctor of Laws


In the famous text "Zi Chan on Yin He as governor of the state" which is part of the Gems of Chinese Literature, great emphasis is placed on the importance of "learning before entering into government", by which is meant that it is essential for someone to acquire practical, hands-on experience prior to taking up the task of governance.  This is certainly the path chosen by Dr the Honourable Henry Tang Ying-yen, Chief Secretary for Administration.

Dr Tang Hsiang-chien, the father of Dr Henry Tang, was a pioneer among Hong Kong industrialists in establishing enterprises on the Mainland, having set up his textile business there as early as the 1970’s.  Dr Tang Hsiang-chien was also a forerunner in launching the electronics industry in Hong Kong in the early 1980s by introducing state-of-the-art technology and providing specialist training for those committed to research and development in the field.  Brought up in a family dedicated to the advancement of Hong Kong’s manufacturing industry, Dr Tang majored in Psychology at the University of Michigan where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree. He stayed on in the United States to further his studies, and returned to Hong Kong in 1976 to take up his father’s business.  He developed the family enterprise of garment manufacturing, while upholding the immaculate approach to work for which his father, Dr Tang Hsiang-chien, was well-known.  He applied himself diligently to every aspect of business operations, making himself an illustrious entrepreneur in Hong Kong.  He was presented with the Young Industrialist of Hong Kong Award in 1989.  In 1993 he was named a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, and he was the Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries for three consecutive sessions, from 1995 to 2001.  He was also a Committee Member of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.  Through a series of high-ranking commitments in commerce and industry over the years, Dr Tang has accumulated substantial experience in practical, hands-on work, and gained profound understanding of how Hong Kong society works in its various strata.  Most importantly, such experience and understanding have enabled him to win the trust of the commercial and industrial sectors, which entrusted him with important public responsibilities.  From 1991 to 1998 Dr Tang was a member of the Legislative Council and, as a bridge between the various segments of our society and the Government, he functioned as a major channel of communication between the two.  In 1997 he was appointed to the Executive Council, whereby he took part in the drawing up of public policies in Hong Kong at the highest level.

In 2002, Dr Tang was invited to join the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and took up the post of Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology.  In this capacity Dr Tang’s purview comprised international trade, resources and support for commerce and industry, foreign investment, information, technology, telecommunications, broadcasting, films and the creative media, as well as intellectual property.  During his time in office, that is, from 2002 to 2003, Dr Tang gave tremendous support to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and his efforts, including the Special Loan Scheme for SMEs and expanding credit entitlement opportunities for more projects, provided great impetus to the further growth of the SMEs as well as the continued vitalization of the economy in the Pearl River Delta. Furthermore, Dr Tang played a significant role in the successful conclusion of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA): as the result of his efforts for an entire year, agreement was finally reached whereby the Mainland and Hong Kong would both benefit from complementary and reciprocal business arrangements, to the great economic advantage of both.

In August 2003 Dr Tang was appointed Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Government. It was a most difficult and trying time for the city, with the economy at an all-time low due to the SARS virus. Dr Tang wholeheartedly devoted his time and energy to his duties and, working closely with all parties concerned, finally put the economy on the road to recovery.  In those days the Hong Kong Government was suffering from an enormous deficit in its finances, but in his four years as Financial Secretary, Dr Tang was able to turn the situation around, bringing the public accounts back into the black.

Since his assumption of the office of Chief Secretary for Administration in July 2007, Dr Tang has assisted the Chief Executive in administration, planned and coordinated major policies across different government departments. However, despite his onerous workload, he always remains personable and pleasant.  Such ease and modesty spring from a receptive mind and generosity of spirit, as well as a steady and practical approach to matters at hand.  He is a great listener much admired for his ability to assimilate gathered opinions and translate them into workable schemes of action.  When a policy is being implemented, he encourages team spirit within the ranks of Government to ensure that there is well-knit cooperation among the agencies involved.

During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Dr Tang assumed the duties of the President of the Equestrian Committee (Hong Kong) and successfully planned and organized the equestrian events in Hong Kong.  In May 2008, after a devastating earthquake struck in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province, Dr Tang was the Chairman of the Steering Committee for Reconstruction in Sichuan Earthquake Stricken Areas, and has been working closely with the community in Hong Kong to provide assistance and support to fellow-countrymen in Sichuan as they rebuild their homes.

Since October 2008, Dr Tang has been Chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.  In that capacity he has spared no effort in bringing the project towards realization.  Furthermore, as the Chief Secretary for Administration, Dr Tang has been a principal advocate for greater cooperation between Hong Kong and Guangdong, in particular the Pearl River Delta, in the infrastructure, economy, social and cultural areas.

Over many years Dr Tang has participated in the work of numerous Government committees and public organizations.  These have included the Trade Development Council, the Town Planning Board, the Labour Advisory Board, the Construction Industry Review Committee, the Community Chest and the Council of the City University of Hong Kong.  In all these offices he has demonstrated outstanding leadership and judgment, and his contribution to the development of commerce and industry in Hong Kong has been particularly substantial.  In 2000 Dr Tang received the Gold Bauhinia Star, and in 2002 the degree of Doctor of Business Administration, honoris causa from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.  In 2003 the City University of Hong Kong conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, and in 2008 the Open University of Hong Kong conferred on him with the degree of Doctor of Social Sciences, honoris causa.  In 2009, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region presented him with the Grand Bauhinia Medal.

The contribution of Dr Tang to higher education in Hong Kong has been significant.  He was a member of the University Grants Committee, at which time tertiary education had seen spectacular growth and expansion.  Education has always occupied a high place on his governance agenda, and it is his view that, for Hong Kong to maintain its strategic advantages in regional and world economy, it is essential for the city to develop, as well as to absorb and retain, the best human resources. Apart from the enhancement of the training of local talent, this policy is to be materialized through the strengthening of exchange programmes and the provision of additional residence places in local tertiary institutions.  It is anticipated that these measures will help to draw young people of high capability to Hong Kong, and to bring to early fruition the ultimate goal of developing Hong Kong into a regional educational hub.

Dr Tang and his family have been ardent supporters of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and its constituent Colleges over the decades.  Dr Tang Hsiang-chien, the father of Dr Henry Tang, had been the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of New Asia College for many years, and he had also sat on the Board of Trustees of United College and the University Council. Following the stellar footsteps of his father, Dr Henry Tang was Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees of New Asia College, and he endowed the Henry Tang Scholarship for the students of the College.  He spared no effort in facilitating the development of the College, establishing the mentorship programme for its students and launching the summer student exchange programme for social service between New Asia College and Yale University.  From 1997 to 2007, Dr Tang generously donated full scholarships to students with outstanding academic achievements in the Faculties of Business Administration and Engineering.

On 18 September 2009, when speaking at a guest lecture at Shaw College, Dr Tang said, "The university is an august edifice at which academic research is pursued, and where human resources for the society are nurtured.  Members of the Chinese University are people who cherish their ideals, who are endowed with foresight, and who practise the virtue of perseverance.  Twenty years ago, when the Government required the Chinese University to change its academic structure from a four-year curriculum to a three-year curriculum, students and teachers stood firm on the ideals with which the University was founded, and peacefully but resolutely voiced their protest and dissatisfaction.  Today we are going back from a three-year system to a four-year system, and time has proven that the Chinese University was right." With these words, we know for sure that Dr Tang fully recognizes the educational principles we have upheld all along, and the achievements we have made.

As a tribute to his illustrious contribution to Hong Kong and his unswerving support for The Chinese University of Hong Kong over the decades, Mr Chancellor, may I present Dr Henry Tang Ying-yen for the award of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.