Legal giant and legislator led the way in promoting Chinese culture

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2008, 12:00am

Former executive councillor, legislator and prominent legal figure Woo Pak-chuen, who has died aged 98, was praised yesterday as a man who loved Hong Kong wholeheartedly and contributed unconditionally.

'From him, we really learnt a lot. His passion for Hong Kong, his will to serve the community, all these made him such a role model,' Moses Cheng Mo-chi, a senior partner of legal firm PC Woo & Co, said.

Woo established the firm in 1945 and it has long been regarded as one of the city's top legal practices.

A former chairman of Kowloon Motor Bus and a strong advocate of Chinese culture, Woo was born in Hong Kong on January 1910, the son of Woo Hay-tong, who was known for establishing the Woo Hay Tong Scholarships for local students.

Graduating from London University as a Bachelor of Law in 1937, he gained his doctoral degree in law three years later and was president of the Law Society in 1959-60.

Before the handover and especially before the 1980s, he was one of the most prominent local Chinese public figures as an executive councilor from 1972-1976 and legislator from 1964-73. He chaired KMB from the 1980s to the early 1990s.

Woo was vocal on education reform and a pioneering advocate of Chinese culture, at times when it was largely neglected by colonial society.

'As Hong Kong is the meeting point of cultures of east and west, I consider it should play an active part in the further development of Chinese culture,' he said in 1969.

Mr Cheng, also active in community service, recalled Woo as 'his excellent mentor' when he joined the firm in 1973 as an articled clerk. 'He was very kind. Everyone who talked with him would feel happy and learned a lot. He had a deep understanding of Chinese literature and the Chinese legal system.'

Privacy Commissioner Roderick Woo Bun, also a former president of the Law Society, praised Woo's contribution to the legal sector.

'He was one of the few in the Law Society's Roll of Honour,' Mr Woo said, referring to people selected for distinguished service to the development of the legal profession in Hong Kong. 'Nowadays, many people benefit from legal aid. Mr Woo contributed a lot to its development.'

In recent years, Woo had faded from public view due to age and ill-health, but his name still appeared occasionally in the newspapers, including on the entertainment pages.

Survived by two daughters and a son, he died peacefully in Queen Mary Hospital on April 30. A private memorial service was held on May 3.

'It was a low-key one as it was Mr Woo's wish' Mr Cheng said.