Vice Premier Mr Li Keqiang, Minister of Education Mr Yuan Guiren, Mr Chancellor, Distinguished Guests, Members of the HKU Family, Ladies and Gentlemen,
And, on behalf of The University of Hong Kong, I would like to welcome you to the University this morning and, at the same time, thank you for coming to celebrate with us the University's Centenary.
The last century has witnessed tremendous changes in Hong Kong, China and around the world, be it technological, economical, social or political.
The University has also moved with the times over the past 100 years and evolved from an institute with only three areas of studies to a comprehensive university of many disciplines. As members of the international academe, we share the global challenges at the forefront of higher education developments.
Indeed, the birth of this first and foremost University was an important part of the history of Hong Kong and China. It was the result of the combined efforts of the two governments, in Hong Kong and in Canton (now Guangdong), despite the rather delicate Sino-British relations in the last years of the Qing Dynasty. It could have been an impossible dream, had it not been for those who believed in the need for a university in Hong Kong and the generosity of those who wished to see one built for China and the world.
The University of Hong Kong was formally established in 1911; however, it has been a constant debate among our alumni and the community at large as to whether the University should be dated back to 1887, the year when the College of Medicine for Chinese was established in Hong Kong. Adding to this debate was the famous quote from Dr Sun Yat-sen, one of the first graduates of the College: He said, "I feel as though I have returned home because Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong are the birthplace of my knowledge." That was what Dr Sun told the students in this great hall, back in 1923.
Despite these academic arguments, generations of scholars, students and alumni have so shaped HKU that it has gained a momentum of its own, transcending time and changes, as a university should. The enlightenment of teaching and learning at the University is now further enriched by the wealth of groundbreaking research. Our graduates have moved beyond careers in the civil service, to all sectors of society, and they have moved beyond Hong Kong.
HKU remains a guardian of knowledge, an incubator of ideas and innovations, a cradle for new intellect and talent, and a pioneer in social consciousness and responsibility.
Indeed, universities are among the most enduring institutions of any society; they are its soul and they bring hope.
It is in this spirit that we celebrate our Centenary and look into the future. Let me elaborate this further, in three aspects.
First, despite variations of the relationship between Hong Kong and its motherland, the University of Hong Kong has never ceased to play its unique role in contributing to China's modernization. Apart from Sun Yat-sen, many alumni have contributed directly to the development of the Mainland in the past Century. In addition, HKU graduates have played essential parts in building the great modern metropolis of Hong Kong, which in turn has proved to be an asset to its motherland.
However, as China moves forward, HKU must assume the responsibility to play an even bigger role at a higher level, to support and fulfill the nation's economic and social