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Professor SUNG Jao-yiu Joseph

91st Congregation (2022)

Professor SUNG Jao-yiu Joseph

Doctor of Laws


The conference room of the Office of the Vice-Chancellor of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) is spacious, brightly lit and dazzled by a line of neigbouring green landscape. During autumn time in particular, a gentle evening glow will seep into the room that helps make it cosier and even more comfortable. All these years, a couplet is displayed there, with lines originated from the inspirational poem of Lin Zexu, a famous minister of the late Qing Dynasty. The couplet reads: Engulfing hundreds of rivers is the enduring ocean; vast, tolerant and virtuous. Standing tall and indestructible is the eternal cliff; upright, unassuming and mighty. The calligraphy of the couplet is written by no other than Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, the seventh Vice-Chancellor of CUHK. The strokes of the couplet show the calligrapher’s charm, strength, as well as grace. The message of the couplet aptly enunciates what a university is for, that is, it should, like the vast ocean, embrace different views in order to advance knowledge, and be liberal and tolerant of views from different sectors. When searching for answers, it should look far and beyond, like standing on top of a towering cliff. For a university, the sky is the limit. The couplet is indeed also the reflection of Professor Sung’s solemn pledges he made when he was installed as the Vice-Chancellor of CUHK, connoting his great magnanimity and vision, and his aspiration to do his best for the University.

Professor Sung is an accomplished physician who practises medicine in order to help people, whether rich or poor. A world renowned scholar, he pioneered the use of endoscopic techniques in treating ulcer bleeding, asserting the relationship between H.pylori and ulcer bleeding and also reducing the need for operative surgery. Later, he led other Asian countries to conduct colorectal cancer screening programme and set up screening standards for the procedure. The community-wide programme helps to identify people with disease or people at increased risk of the disease for prompt treatment and thus improves the treatment outcome. For his outstanding contribution in this regard, Professor Sung was honoured by the Prevention Cancer Foundation of the United States with the Laurel Award. In 2003, Hong Kong was plagued by the outbreak of SARS, causing untold misery among people from all walks of life. Professor Sung took the matter into his own hands, and fought hard day and night without much rest to find a way to halt the spread of this deadly disease. In the end, he helped Hong Kong win the battle. The Time magazine named him a Time “Asian Hero” for having successfully contained SARS. CUHK installed Professor Joseph Sung Jaoyiu, a laureate researcher in the medical field, a towering figure in the eyes of his peers, and a national hero, as its seventh Vice-Chancellor in July 2010. After more than seven years’ dedicated service, Professor Sung bade farewell to CUHK. During his seven-year stewardship, he cared for his colleagues and students, and spared no efforts in promoting teaching and research, and making positive contributions to the longterm development of this great institution.

Among the distinguished deeds at CUHK by Professor Sung is the implementation of a seamless switch from the three-year to the four-year undergraduate curriculum. The new curriculum places emphasis on cross-discipline studies and expands exchange opportunities for students, enabling students to diversify their learning needs. In 2014, Professor Sung started the CUHK Medical Centre project, which aimed at building Hong Kong’s first non-profit private teaching hospital, helping advance clinical research and train more medical staff for Hong Kong. All these are instrumental in taking the Faculty of Medicine to new heights.

Furthermore, Professor Sung orchestrated, in 2010, the setting up of the School of Life Sciences, followed by the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2017. From 2010/11 to 2017/18 academic year, he helped roll out more than twenty new undergraduate programmes to align with global development and to meet society’s needs. These include: gender studies, mathematics and information engineering, sports science, early childhood education, biomedicine, energy and environmental engineering, earth and environmental sciences, China studies, global economics and finance, etc. Along with the development of new academic programmes is the establishment of a number of research centres and institutes. To name but a few: the Institute of Environment, Energy and Sustainability, Shenzhen Research Institute, CUHK T Stone Robotics Institute, etc. The fields of research are diverse and all-embracing, covering environment, medicine, science and technology. Within the framework of Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Chinese-Foreign Cooperation in Running Schools, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen (CUHK(SZ)) was set up in 2014, which aims at extending both the vision and academic system of CUHK into the mainland. CUHK(SZ) now provides high quality tertiary education for students from Shenzhen, the Pearl River Delta Region and across the nation.

During Professor Sung’s tenure, he guided the University towards the frontiers of research. He brought in new measures in place of some traditional practices, all with good reasons. What is more known to us is the fact that he is absolutely against chasing blindly after university ranking. He once said, “If we have invested our best for people and put resources properly into research and teaching, our ranking should not be any worse.” Without doubt, running a good university depends on the sincerity and conviction of the people concerned, not on the rank order it is assigned. New study programmes offered should gear to the need of society, not to chase after high ranking. He is of the view that university education should help people pursue both virtuousness and lifelong self-improvement. He also rejects unhealthy competition among universities. The terrain of CUHK is such that it stands high facing the Ma On Shan, staying away from the hustle and bustle of the city. In such an academic milieu, both staff and students are absorbed in studies to help advance, and transfer, knowledge for the benefit of society. Once in a while, there comes tough times for Professor Sung. In such rare moments, he would either make peace with them by practising Chinese calligraphy, or relax himself by jogging. “I usually get up at six, and go jogging from the Science Park to Taipo. Along the way, there are few people. The tranquility, coupled with the serene morning haze, provides a good opportunity for meditation.” he said.

Professor Sung champions research and yet puts more emphasis on traditional humanistic values. He hopes that university education would help guide students through moral values and ethics, inculcate in them the ability to think critically, encourage them to be innovative, and train them to become a global citizen. During his term, he practises what he preaches. In 2011, he introduced the I·Care Programme, which aims at inspiring students to actively partake in social and civic services, and infusing in them broadmindedness, civic responsibility, the notion of global citizenship, and aesthetic judgement. During student gatherings, Professor Sung, for many a time, would leave the platform to sit with students so as to share with them the way to conduct themselves responsibly in life. His words of wisdom: Listen with patience, and be tolerant of others. He would also quote the famous lines of Su Dongpo’s poem: Viewing the mountain from the side loses its panorama view. Capturing the scene from various angles yields a different look. He often encouraged students to approach an issue with no preconception, and consider various viewpoints from multiple angles before making a decision. In such a way, they will, like the vast ocean that admits all rivers and streams, get to the bottom of the issue.

After saying goodbye to CUHK, Professor Sung joined the Nanyang Technological University as its Dean of the School of Medicine and Senior Vice-President. In his farewell message to old friends at CUHK, he expressed his love and care for the University and Hong Kong. “One day, if we meet unexpectedly on a jogging track somewhere in Hong Kong, you shouldn’t be surprised, because I will come back often to visit friends and Hong Kong.”

It should be a warm early morning, with the first appearance of the budding dew under the early morning red. Outside the Science Park, next to Tolo Harbour, a long shadow would glide through the light breeze at the crack of dawn. A range of elevations stands adjacent to the shadow, accompanied by two high-rise water towers on the top reaching for the sky. Meeting an old friend from afar, we would greet each other. The benevolent spring rain, silent and tender, moisturises the plants and everything without notice. If the grass knows, how could it not express its gratitude in return. For the CUHK fraternity, how could we not thank Professor Sung for his valuable contributions and selfless devotion to the University over the years. Mr Chairman, it is my privilege to present to you Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu for the award of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.