Dr Anthony Neoh recalls his 29 years of service at CUHK


In recent years, Dr Anthony Neoh has expended efforts in building the CUHK Medical Centre, a non-profit, private teaching hospital owned by the University. By Gary Cheung and Joyce Ng

One of Dr Anthony Neoh’s fondest memories in his almost three decades of service to CUHK was serving as an orator for two honorary fellows in 2012. “I am probably the only lay member of the council that took up the role of an orator in CUHK’s history, penning citations and delivering the speeches at the ceremony,” Dr Neoh, who retired from the council this month, says proudly. “That is a lot of work and is usually done by our professors, but I volunteered”.

One of the two honorary fellows for whom he took pains to write for was CUHK translation professor and renowned linguist Serena Jin Sheng-hwa.

They are “comrades”, working together on the onerous enterprise of reviewing the Chinese version of the entire collection of Hong Kong laws for the government in the run-up to the 1997 handover. Dr Neoh spent months researching Professor Jin’s work, interviewing her colleagues and students, to write the pieceHe put as much effort into the citation for the other honorary fellow, entrepreneur Peter Lo Tak-shing, and even paid site visits to Lo’s fast food chain Cafe de Coral.

Dr Neoh’s tireless efforts to do his job speak volumes for his devotion to CUHK. Since he was appointed to the University’s governing council in 1994, the senior counsel has assumed a wide range of duties, from fundraising to helping select the University’s vice-chancellor. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Faculty of Law, CUHK (Shenzhen) and the CUHK Medical Centre. During five years away from home, when he worked on the mainland as chief adviser to the China Securities Regulatory Commission, he continued serving on the council.

A long journey to the Law Faculty and CUHK Medical Centre

Helping CUHK set up the School of Law in 2004 was another unforgettable experience, says the 76-year-old. “Having a law school had always been a dream of CUHK. In the 1980s, our University ran a lot of courses and seminars in Chinese law, and I was also doing some research on it. But due to government policy, the time did not come until late 1990s that the government finally invited CUHK to set up a third law school for Hong Kong to address a shortage of lawyers. Then we put all our energies into the preparation,” he tells CUHK in Focus.

The planning committee, which he chaired, decided that the law school should develop a speciality in Chinese law while also having international elements in the curriculum. The committee was joined by several distinguished overseas scholars, including Professor David Williams, former vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge. The school was renamed as the Faculty of Law in 2008 as it expanded with more programmes.

In recent years, Dr Neoh has expended efforts in building the CUHK Medical Centre, a non-profit, private teaching hospital owned by the University. As a board member of the hospital, he handled the project’s legal matters, including the application for a hospital licence and working out the land-lease conditions with the government. The hospital opened in 2021 “but had a difficult start”, he says.

“When it opened, the COVID-19 pandemic had hit Hong Kong and we had a shortage of nurses. But still we were the first private hospital that took over some COVID-19 patients from public hospitals so as to ease their burden,” he explains.

Dr Neoh and others in the management held talks with the government on proposals to defer repayment of a HK$4 billion government loan. After rounds of lobbying, lawmakers last month approved the deferral for at least two years. “We managed to secure unanimous support, but the lobbying and negotiation prior to the vote were not easy,” he says.

As CUHK’s treasurer, Dr Neoh has also been involved in fundraising for the University. Donations have been on a steady rise in the past few years, he says, and some donors are particularly supportive of projects in medicine, life sciences, information engineering, architecture and law. “My observation is, as long as we have achievements to show and social impacts to make, donors will come to us,” he remarks.

General education “should be cherished”

As he bids farewell, he hopes CUHK students can cherish general education courses that the University offers as part of the curriculum. He notes that university education in Hong Kong to some extent has become more like vocational training in the past two decades, as more employers expect graduates to be able to quickly familiarise themselves with their duties once they are hired.

“CUHK has tried to address that by providing general education. I encourage students to take this seriously and cherish it as part of their education. General education may not seem important today, but in future, when you have problems to solve, you may feel you missed a lot of things,” he says. “Why do I think this way? I did not study in university when I was young. I have always longed for a teacher to guide me”.

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