top of page


Good evening everyone. Thank you for inviting me to your high table dinner. Eric knows that I have been looking forward to visiting you at St John’s College. It is truly a pleasure to be here.

I am very grateful for the precious opportunity to share this evening with you. Human connection and communication have been undermined by the unprecedented global pandemic, but the disconnect in Hong Kong actually started much earlier, on the heels of the 2019 social unrest. The conflict not only depressed many of us but also caused devastating rifts in the community.

At HKU, we have been doing our best to keep up engagement and communication with students and the university community at large. As an institution dedicated to knowledge creation, sharing, application and preservation, the university is uniquely positioned to accommodate differences, even disagreements. If disagreement is what we arrive at after a reasoned discourse, then it is every bit as valuable and worthy of recognition as any agreement. In a civil world, one can agree to disagree.

HKU aspires to be a leading global university. To actualise this vision, we must be on the move every minute of the day. We must focus on knowledge exploration through diligent R&D and relentless attraction of international talent to our university and our city.

Knowledge has always been crucial to human development. Most of the tools, technologies and medicines we use today are products or by-products of research – from pens to rockets, and from aspirin to organ transplantation. Science, or knowledge mining and advancement, has shaped the world. Knowledge sharing and application have improved our wellbeing.

A UNESCO article rightly pointed out that universal access to knowledge is a significant global public good. Since the dawn of mankind, the creation and application of new knowledge has contributed to the societal progress and economic development. Knowledge is the most precious ‘wealth’ on earth.

Perhaps it’s time to remind ourselves the reason to be at university – to seek knowledge for the betterment of mankind. Let’s move on in the New Normal and embrace disruptive changes. Let’s chart new paths by thinking beyond the immediate present. We need to rise above our geography and try to see ourselves within the context of the nation and the larger world. Ask ourselves what we can do to help make life better for all. To say we should think out of the box is an understatement. Paradigms need to undergo seismic shifts. Minds need to open and eyes to be ever so keen.

Despite the need for social distancing, I have made rounds of visits to many halls and departments. I have also stopped by restaurants on campus to interact with students individually or in small groups. I was heartened to find most students upbeat and excited about campus life. And importantly, I learned a great deal from listening and sharing their feelings.

HKU shall remain a place where diversity of perspectives and freedom of expression are embraced within a culture of respect and inclusion.

There may be legal limits to political challenges but we have the ability to advance human progress and alleviate inequity through knowledge generation and dissemination. Knowledge is the change agent. If we want to change the world, start with knowledge exploration.

As a scientist, I encourage you all to dream big. Look beyond our boundaries. Imagine new possibilities. The next time you fly a drone, think about NASA’s exploration programme on Mars, where the first controlled helicopter flight just took place. The Mars atmosphere is less than 1% as thick as Earth’s. That makes it extremely difficult to generate enough lift to fly. And yet, with human ingenuity and superhuman resolve, they did it

HKU wants to become a springboard for your impactful ideas and innovations. We want to nurture your entrepreneurial spirit. We want to endow you with the courage and capacity to realise your most audacious vision. And we shall endeavour to put you in the best position to trial, err and succeed. On this planet, or any other planet.

Thank you again for your gracious hospitality. Let’s chat more later.


Commenting has been turned off.

Speech at HKU St. John’s College 2021 High Table Dinner

bottom of page