Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian Holliday, The Honourable Chief Justice Mr Geoffrey Ma, Parents, colleagues, graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen on campus today and on line in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and elsewhere.
I would like to thank everyone for attending this afternoon’s ceremony and extend my special thanks to the Honourable Chief Justice Ma, for giving the keynote address to our graduands.
Firstly, it’s a great pleasure to see so many familiar faces here today. These two years have passed by very quickly indeed, although I realise we haven’t been able to see each other in person as often as I might have wished because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. I would like to thank you all for your patience, understanding and tolerance – in many ways this cohort is truly unique as you have gone through so many disruptions, many of which are unprecedented. I would like to commend you all for your perseverance and persistence, qualities which will doubtless serve you well throughout the course of the bright legal careers that lie ahead of you… Congratulations, you finally did it!
You would be interested in knowing, and it is important for you to know, that it was exactly 50 years ago that the first cohort of students graduated to become the first batch of locally trained lawyers – the Faculty of Law was founded in 1969. That pioneering generation of students faced a great deal of uncertainty and many unknown challenges head. At that time, China was still in political chaos, there had been riots and social turmoil in Hong Kong and nobody knew what would happen to the city after the 99-year lease of the New Territories expired in 1997 – in 25 years’ time. Notwithstanding the immense difficulties they faced, we know now – with the benefit of hindsight – that the first generation of lawyers triumphed in the face of adversity and ultimately assumed the mantle of leadership for the legal profession. Having witnessed the courage, determination and talent that you have displayed over the past two years, I have every confidence that you can all do the same.
The rule of law is a core value of our society and indeed it is in the DNA of our collective identity. Perhaps, never has there been a time when the community at large has had a deeper appreciation of the true value of the rule of law than at the present during this period of profound structural transformation. The changes are unfolding right in front of our eyes and your generation is witnessing history-in-the-making. It is true that Hong Kong will face major challenges in the months and years ahead, but with great challenges also come tremendous opportunities. I encourage each and every one of you not to shy away from uncertainty, but to seize these opportunities and be part of the changes. Step out of your comfort zones and take a few risks so that you can be a part of and shape the changes afoot. As Hong Kong’s history is written, you can be its authors. You might need to step back to look at the bigger picture and broaden your horizons, but you are young and the world is yours. One thing I have learned over the course of my career is the ability of the human spirit to survive and adapt to change is immense and should never be underestimated.
Finally, I would like to personally thank the families of the students who have entrusted their sons and daughters to us. It must have been a long journey to date and I imagine many tears have been shed in joy and pain. I hope all our graduands will remember those difficult moments and most importantly remember the people who have loved, supported and cared for you at the time when you needed it the most. After today’s ceremony, when you go home remember to thank your parents, family and loved ones for their unwavering support. I know from experience that it is not easy to produce and raise a future lawyer!
With that, I would like to take this opportunity again to wish you all the best and I look forward to seeing you grow into good lawyers, responsible citizens and, fundamentally, decent human beings.