Chong Chan-yau is a man of action. One of the first things the former head of Oxfam Hong Kong did when he joined the University of Hong Kong as director of student development last year was to set up a three-member fair trade coffee group to promote the idea among his colleagues and find sources of fair-trade coffee and tea in Hong Kong. Sitting in his office with a braille display and a mug of fair-trade coffee in front of him, Mr Chong, who went blind as a result of illness when he was a child, said he hoped more students would see the importance of being a responsible global citizen. Apart from connecting students who are interested in international issues through an online platform, Mr Chong organises activities to enhance staff and students' understanding of global concerns such as HIV/Aids and climate change. Recently his office organised an organic meal with a charity to alert students of the urgency to protect the environment. And under Mr Chong's guidance, a few HKU students have formed a concern group on climate change that is planning a youth summit and a survey to find out how students look at the issue. Community services is another area Mr Chong would like to get students more involved with. He is trying to work out programmes for members of residential halls at HKU to visit children and the elderly. He also wants to provide training for volunteers on a large scale and arrange social service opportunities for the alumni. For Mr Chong, who was educated at HKU and the University of London and has worked in government and universities, it is of paramount importance for students to develop an international perspective. To achieve this end, he said more international students should be brought to Hong Kong, while local students should be given more opportunities to go abroad on exchange programmes, internships or community service initiatives. 'An exposure to different cultures enables students to develop a wider perspective and acquire universal values, including diversity and justice,' he said. Going abroad could be life-changing, Mr Chong added, giving as an example students who had set up an NGO in Hong Kong to promote an awareness of poverty after visiting Cambodia last year. 'Some of them were unaware of what was happening in the world and their lives consisted of mostly studying and having fun. In Cambodia they witnessed the suffering of people, which had a great impact on them,' he said. And from a practical point of view, university graduates would almost certainly have to interact with people from different cultures in the working world, he said. It was better if they had such an experience when they were students. The head of student development is in the process of securing funding to send more students abroad. 'Our students come from different backgrounds,' he said. 'Quite a number of them have to support themselves by doing part-time jobs. For them the prospect to do voluntary work abroad is remote if they have to pay the expenses themselves. We always talk about the importance of having experience outside the classroom. Do students from a less privileged background have the opportunity?' Mr Chong said while there was much talk of internationalisation in universities in Hong Kong, discussions were often couched in terms of benefits for the economy. He proposed another way to look at it. 'Internationalisation encourages teachers and students to think about what we can do to help solve global problems,' he said. 'As China becomes increasingly important on the world stage, so does our role in global issues.' Mr Chong believed that universities had the mission to nurture the ability to deal with transnational problems such as climate change, infectious diseases and international conflicts. They also played a part in promoting democratisation and cultivating 'core values like justice, democracy, respect for diversity and inclusion'. 'How do we incorporate these values in our lives? This is what we need to communicate with students,' he said, adding that students in Hong Kong were bombarded with conflicting messages conveyed in schools and society. 'On the one hand we emphasise competitiveness. On the other we talk about these values,' he said. 'It seems in the real world you are told to compete. I don't want to see this contradiction happening.' Mr Chong said there should be more focus on collaboration, which he defined as 'the ability to coexist with other people and create win-win situations'. Asked if he thought students in Hong Kong were too materialistic, Mr Chong said this was a 'self-perpetuating image' reinforced by the media. 'At HKU I've met quite a number of students who are interested in global issues. But they don't get attention from the press,' he said. He added that his work at Oxfam had enabled him to introduce certain issues to the agenda at HKU, including the importance of the NGO perspective and changes in the business sector's values. 'I've been telling people at HKU not to separate one's professional background with his or her values. The two don't necessarily conflict with each other,' Mr Chong said. Many people in the financial industry were beginning to think about whether there should be more investment in green and socially responsible projects. Having studied in both special and mainstream schools, Mr Chong said he was glad to see more opportunities were available to the visually-impaired. 'When I was at the Ebenezer School for the Blind I had to fight to get into a mainstream school,' he said. 'Blind students nowadays don't have to go through such a struggle. This is a big improvement.' However, opportunities for the disabled were still limited in secondary schools, which was evident from some educators' belief that blind students were unable to do science subjects, Mr Chong said. What mattered for blind pupils was a suitable method of teaching. 'Studying is about the pursuit of knowledge, not whether you can see something or not,' he said. 'We don't want a lower benchmark of assessment.' Discrimination in employment remained. Mr Chong said many employers were ignorant of the ability of blind people. 'They don't only look at the ability of a candidate in completing the core job. They also consider whether the candidate can do possible extra duties that are marginal, such as photocopying.' He said middle-ranking managers were particularly unlikely to try to understand blind people. But Mr Chong said his disability had not been an obstacle in his career. A recipient of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award in 1991 and an MBE in 1995, Mr Chong said he was considering running for the Legislative Council next year. 'Physical limitations should not be an excuse to not pursuing our goals,' he said. 'My passion in life is to help others. I'm very happy whenever I am able to do so.' He encouraged students to take action to create better world. 'We need more innovation in society through NGOs and civil society. We have to translate our dreams into reality,' Mr Chong said.