Speech by The Honourable Mr. Justice Syed Kemal Shah BOKHARY, GBM, JP



Honorary degrees are conferred for achievements in the past. The achievements may be very great achievements such as those of Dr. CHAN. Or they may be relatively minor ones such as mine. However that may be, it is with deep gratitude that Dr. CHAN and I accept the honorary doctorates conferred upon us. And we esteem it an especial honour to share this occasion with so many worthy young people who have today received degrees which look to the future.


For me, there are two additional reasons why this occasion is so special. First of all, it is a vivid reminder of the time so long ago when I lectured at Shue Yan, then in its infancy. Everyone who experienced those times will always remain inspired by the dedication and determination of Dr. Henry HU – Uncle Henry to me – and the wonderful lady his wife who is still with him in spirit.


The other additional reason why this occasion is so special for me is the privilege of sharing it with Dr. CHAN. Her artistry on the operatic stage and on the screen is an integral part of collective memory in Hong Kong. It forms an enduring part of our culture. She has devoted herself to the training of those who aspire to follow in her footsteps – always several respectful paces behind of course. And she is a generous supporter of good causes. For all these things, she is revered.


This ceremony is, above all, a family occasion. And it is doubly delightful for my wife and me – we being parents and grandparents – to contemplate the just cause for pride with which these young people have repaid those who have so lovingly brought them up.


What does the future hold for these young people? Giving my answer to them directly, I say this. Let us begin with the fact that you have already demonstrated the ability and willingness to work that paves the way to success and fulfilment. Next, let us recognize that our beloved home, Hong Kong, is a world leader in some respects while still lagging behind in other respects. It is a fiercely competitive place. The cost of living here is high, especially when it comes to putting a roof over your head. There was a time in Hong Kong when a good education more or less guaranteed commensurate employment or professional advancement. That is no longer so.


These are truths, even if they are inconvenient truths, which I have spoken. The challenges ahead are formidable. But in one way or another, that has always been so in Hong Kong. Generation after generation, we have always found people capable of overcoming all difficulties however daunting. I have no doubt that such people are to be found – and found in abundance – among those of your generation.


Face your future without complacency but equally without fear. Know that you have what it takes to succeed. Perhaps success will come to you very quickly. Hopefully it will. But do not be downhearted if it turns out to take some time. For if success seems slow in coming, it will be all the more satisfying when it eventually comes. Choose your objective wisely. Pursue it with determination. Some doors you may find closed. Others you will find open. Never compromise your integrity in the pursuit of material advantage. Always do your honourable best. Never betray the principles to which you are committed. Strive for the kind of success which benefits not only you and your family but which also serves a wider interest.


There are many different fields of endeavour in which to find that kind of success and, therefore, fulfilment. The law is one of them. Some people think of the law as sometimes overly technical, rather cramped and even a touch mean-spirited. Perhaps there are aspects of the law of which that sort of criticism can be made with an element of truth. But most of the law is – and the whole of the law can be – worthy of genuine respect.

Human rights have come to constitute the most important part of the law. These fundamental rights and freedoms are of a socio-economic as well as civil and political nature. By protecting and promoting these fundamentals, the law plays a vital role in building and maintaining a free and fair society. It will be a society in which: civil liberties are enjoyed; everyone can participate meaningfully; unity is found by accommodating diversity; otherness is respected; daily needs are adequately met; and all can live and let live with human dignity.


Which field of endeavour will you make your life’s work? Whichever one you choose, strive to leave it better than you first found it. Make that improvement the legacy which you bequeath. The beneficiary will be the cause of human progress.


A long road lies ahead of you. And there is much hard work for you to do. Certainly there is no time to waste. Even so, it will be soon enough if you start tomorrow. Tonight you can and should celebrate.


Dr. CHAN and I wish you every success and happiness always. We thank you. And we assure you that we will treasure the lasting bond between all those who have received degrees on this occasion: at your university and on your day.


Source: December Issue 2014

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