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Spirit of Hong Kong

City’s unsung heroes celebrated at Spirit of Hong Kong Awards

Eight winners were nominated by 74 organisations and recognised for their outstanding contributions to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 9:57pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 9:17pm

Six truly remarkable people and two corporations who have inspired others with their contributions to society won this year’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards, organised by the South China Morning Post to honour unsung heroes who might otherwise be off the radar.

“Each awardee serves as a role model for what can be done,” said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, a guest at Friday night’s award ceremony.

“My thanks to each and every one of this year’s awardees. You make me proud. You make us all proud to call Hong Kong, this place, a home.”

The eight winners were nominated by 74 organisations. The judging panel was chaired by Professor Frederick Ma Si-hang, the chairman of the MTR Corporation and former minister for commerce and economic development.

“Granted that it is easier said than done. But the winners and nominees of the Spirit of Hong Kong Awards have shown us that it can be done,” Ma said, via video link on Friday.

Among the winners was Robert Bauer, a 70-year-old honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Hong Kong.

Since 2003, the fluent Cantonese speaker has been writing a Cantonese-English dictionary to make the local language more accessible to English speakers.

He hoped to stop the trend of a shift from Cantonese to Mandarin, especially in terms of educating the younger generation.

“That is going to have an impact on the future development of Cantonese,” Bauer said.

“I am documenting the language because some think Cantonese is in danger.”

Comma Chan Hin-wang, 41, founder of Theatre in the Dark, who lost his sight to glaucoma in his 30s, netted the Corporate Citizen Award (Group Award) for helping to show visually impaired people in a different light.

The theatre produces performances by disabled actors to express themselves and the difficulties they’ve been through.

South China Morning Post CEO Gary Liu said the awards, now in their fifth year, shared the stories of the unsung heroes who extended a helping hand to those in need, who found no excuses in adversity and who have fought to preserve the city’s unique culture and heritage.

“I truly believe that the highest honour that each of us could bestow on you tonight, is the promise to remember and share your stories, and to let them guide us to action and change in our own lives,” Liu said.

Father John David Wotherspoon went home with the People’s Choice Award – picked as the winner by Post readers who voted online.

The prison chaplain has been running an anti-drugs campaign since 2013 and has been posting online letters written by convicted drug mules to appeal to loved ones back home not to follow in their footsteps.

The other winners were: industrial and product designer, Emily Tang, who invented a toilet which helps Parkinson’s disease sufferers regain some of their independence; Elli Fu Nga-nei, the founder of J Life Foundation, which redistributes leftover food from hotels, bakeries and supermarkets to poor people; an emergency foster care mother, Chin Pui-chun, who has given a loving home to 57 children over 14 years, and engineer David Cheung Wai-sun, whose mind was a blank slate after electroshock therapy to “cure” depression, but he battled back to health and used his skills to improve the lives of elderly people.

Another group award went to the Chinese medicine clinic, Light of Raphael, that offers free care to low-income patients, including those who suffer from serious problems such as cancer or strokes.

Liu thanked Sino Group for its support for the awards over the past five years.