Dear members and friends,
It has been a delightful and rewarding experience to serve as President of the Society over the year 2013-2014. For many years we have been one of the most active and thriving Oxford and Cambridge alumni organisations worldwide, and we have been able to maintain and reinforce that success over the past twelve months. I am very proud that our Society has continued to grow and that it has become more diverse, with a very even mix of members: male and female, local and expatriate, young and mature. I hope that our great balance and our broad spread of interests will encourage even more new members to join us.
Our purposes as a Society remain unchanged. They include networking, building links with other university organisations, and building links between Hong Kong and the UK with a focus on Oxford and Cambridge. We have a definite charitable function in offering project-based scholarships to Hong Kong students of limited means studying at Oxford and Cambridge; we also support various charities, mainly educational in nature, in the Hong Kong and China region through our annual Christmas Party and biennial Ball. But perhaps our key purpose is to act as a forum or community in which the Society can help broaden our members’ horizons by introducing them to new or different ideas, activities and people. Long may this community continue to flourish.
We have been very conscious of our membership drive this year. The membership currently stands at 631 members. Of this total, 362 members or 57% attended Oxford University, 261 or 41% attended Cambridge University, and the remainder attended both. We continue to make every effort to attract new and younger members, partly through close cooperation with official university bodies such as the Oxford University China Office, and partly through continuing to widen both our range of events and our range of venues.
I should like to thank all members of the Society’s Committee for their support and assistance over the past year. Without such an outstanding and hard-working committee, it would not have been possible to hold over thirty events within twelve months. Considerations of time and space prevent me from mentioning every Committee member by name. However, besides those Committee members listed below in the enumeration of the Society’s events, I must extend particular thanks to Jeremy Young as Vice-President and Co-Chairman of the Ball Committee, Felix Lai as Co-Chairman of the Ball Committee, Arthur Shek for his continuing support of our undergraduate mentorship programme, and of course David Fu, our Honorary Secretary, whose indefatigable and inimitable work has been invaluable to the efficient running of the Society for so many years. I must also express my sincere thanks to our administrator Irene Lee for her constant and diligent maintenance of our website and membership list and her support of our events.
As one of the most active alumni societies in Hong Kong, it is the responsibility of our Committee to deliver a broad and diverse programme of activities to our members. I am proud and pleased that we have continued to do so, holding over 30 events over the course of the year. I cannot mention all of our events in this report, but I have pleasure in pointing to some of the particular highlights.
The year began in April 2013 with our traditional Boat Race Dinner, organised by the President, which had record-breaking attendance of some 150 guests. We were delighted and honoured to have Ms. Caroline Wilson, British Consul-General in Hong Kong and graduate of Cambridge, proposing the toast to Oxford University in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, and Mr. Michael Blake, General Manager, Asia of Coutts & Co. Ltd and graduate of Oxford, proposing the toast to Cambridge University. After our ever-successful Garden Party at the start of June (arranged as always by Rupert McCowan), the next highlight of our calendar was a speaker dinner on 11th June with Ms Mimi Tang, Asia-Pacific President of Kering/Gucci, co-organised by our Committee member Jessie Zhang. This event was remarkable less for its focus on high fashion than for the real-life business lessons provided by a determined lady who had worked her way up from the position of sales assistant at the old Hong Kong airport to senior manager of a famous global company.
After our popular and now traditional True Blue Dinner at the Java Road Cooked Food Centre in July (ably organised again by Yong Kai Wong), and a succession of musical events, mixer drinks events and lunch talks, the next memorable event on our calendar was the End of Summer Junk Trip to Po To Island on 15th September. A day of glorious sunshine and seemingly limitless supplies of wine supplied by our Committee member and wine merchant Lizzie Fraser allowed the lucky members in attendance to indulge themselves to the full. The junk trip was followed shortly afterwards by a memorable speaker dinner with Chip Tsao, journalist, broadcaster and writer, on the subject of historical relations between Britain and China.
Indulgent though our September junk trip may have been, it was of course far surpassed in sheer opulent magnificence by our “Arabian Nights” biennial Ball held in October. I must thank Cartier and Hackett London as our Gold and Silver Sponsors for their generosity in supporting this event, as well as Jeremy Young, Felix Lai, Gail Southward, Michael Wong, Julian Marland, Divya Vaze and all the other members of our special Ball Committee (including, dare I say it, the President as the member responsible for food and drink) for their dedication and devotion in organising this stupendous evening, which with over 300 guests also broke our attendance records and must have counted as one of Hong Kong’s greatest social events of 2013. The Ball is meant to be hugely enjoyable but has a serious purpose, and so we are very pleased that it raised substantial funds for our scholarship programme, on which further comment will follow.
After an opera and two lectures on, respectively, China’s future and the history of Cambridge, our next great event was our classic Christmas cocktail party at the Hong Kong Club on 10th December. Attendance was high; the servings of Swiss Raclette cheese and honey glazed York ham remained a hit; and we raised a considerable sum for the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, which continues its struggle to protect Hong |Kong’s severely endangered Chinese white dolphins.
The Society started 2014 in style by arranging a most enjoyable high tea with the visiting choir of Queens’ College, Cambridge on 11th January. This was followed in February by our regular Chinese New Year Dinner at Luk Yu Teahouse Restaurant, organised as impeccably as ever by our Secretary David Fu. There followed in late February the first speaker dinner of the Chinese Year of the Horse, organised by Michael Wong, with Dr Simon Sik On Ip, Deputy Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, whose subject – appropriately enough – was “Hong Kong’s Equestrian Vision”. After further musical events and a highly successful and very well-attended joint UK universities mixer drinks evening on 21st March, the final event of the year was our Annual Rowing Regatta held at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s facilities on Middle Island. My particular thanks go Gail Southward and Irene Lee for arranging yet another event which broke attendance records: fifty members and their guests enjoyed the races and accompanying buffet lunch under blazing spring sunshine. In contrast to the less than impressive performance of the Cambridge University team at the official event in the UK, I am pleased to report that a Cambridge crew won the races in Hong Kong!
The Committee allocated HK$120,000 for scholarship grant awards for this year to 6 students studying in Oxford and Cambridge. The awards are summarised below:
(1) CHAN, Alexander Ho Young (Oxford): Summer research project on social enterprises with the U.K. Cabinet Office.
(2) CHOW, Raphael Kai Yin (Oxford): To conduct research at Princeton University in molecular aging in an exchange programme and to undertake a 10-day medical volunteering trip to Ghana under the Global Brigades Oxford chapter.
(3) LAM, Kelly Ka Wai (Cambridge): To study in situ historic documents in archives and works of art at Venice, Florence, Boston and New York.
(4) LAU, Petrina Yau Pok (Oxford): To develop a computational model to understand memory and learning.
(5) TAI, Ernest Ho Wai (Cambridge): To reconstruct and repair Sithong Secondary School in Sangthong District, Laos under the “Cambridge Hong-Kong Operation International Children’s Education” (CHOICE).
(6) WONG, Jia Hui Kelvin (Cambridge): Business incubator to help Tanzanian university students set up social enterprises, specifically offering products/services to improve the lives of slum dwellers at Dar es Salaam.
The projects should deepen the recipients’ learning experience and help them to make significant contributions to the disadvantaged through their volunteer work.
Once again, it has been an honour as well as a pleasure to serve as the President of the Society. It only remains for me to thank all the Society’s members for their friendship and continuous support. Please join me in wishing the incoming President and Vice-President every success in the year ahead.
26th April, 2014