Leung in for a charity ride

Editorial | Mary Ma 22 Nov 2021

The changing of the guard at Hong Kong's higher education sector continues with the breaking news of Gabriel Leung's imminent departure from the University of Hong Kong as dean of medicine, a post he has held since 2013.

Not like Hong Kong University of Science and Technology president Shyy Wei and City University of Hong Kong president Kuo Way, who did not say why they were leaving, Leung offered an explanation. He said he is joining the Hong Kong Jockey Club as director for charity and community, a position considered by many not to be as prestigious as the dean of medicine.

The perks would of course be generous at HKJC, though.

In a circular to faculty members, Leung cited the Analects of Confucius and said it's time to turn a new page because he would turn 50 next year - the start of a 10-year period dubbed "knowing the fate."

Leung, who will leave HKU in the summer, did not elaborate on the sense of fate that has propelled him to make the move.

However, as the club's new director for charity and community, he will have access to a vast war chest to promote charity in the SAR. To steal a phrase that has become politically popular in the mainland, he will be in an enviable position to push for so-called "common prosperity" here and in the mainland through charities.

When Leung stepped down as the health undersecretary for food and health in 2011 to join the Chief Executive Office as director, it was speculated that the transfer was a mid-way stop in his political career.

After Leung Chun-ying won the CE election, Gabriel Leung returned to the HKU medicine school in 2012 and became the dean in 2013. In 2017, Gabriel Leung reportedly ran for the top job of president at HKU that eventually went to mainland-born American scholar Zhang Xiang

Maybe the medicine dean knows he is destined to live more than an academic life at HKU. If he can elevate the Jockey Club's charity works to a new level of "common prosperity," this would be a major score in his future report card should he wish to pursue a public life further.

In recent years, the medicine faculty at HKU has come under unprecedented pressure from the medical school at Chinese University of Hong Kong. If the HKU's medicine courses were the obvious choice for the city's brightest students, the equivalent offered by CUHK are now comparable and the two medical schools are neck and neck in attracting top students.

During those years of Leung's leadership, the HKU medicine faculty has risen but not as quickly as its CUHK competitor.

One of his former colleagues in government, Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, also ended up at the Jockey Club.

Both joined the government as undersecretaries at the same time in 2008. While Leung left the administration in 2012, Tam stayed on to become the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs until 2017. In 2018, Tam took up a Jockey Club PR role as director for corporate affairs.

The Jockey Club is a small world for reunion, isn't it?

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