Kan Yuet-keung

Sir Yuet-keung Kan

Kan Yuet-keung.jpeg
Life member of the Court of University of Hong Kong
In office
1 February 1972 – 2012
Life member of the Council of Chinese University of Hong Kong
In office
Serving with Sir Run Run Shaw, Sir Quo-wei Lee and Dr. Hon-chiu Lee
Chairman of the Council of Chinese University of Hong Kong
In office
Preceded by Sir Cho-yiu Kwan
Succeeded by Sir Quo-wei Lee
Personal details
Born (1913-07-26)26 July 1913
Hong Kong
Died 14 September 2012(2012-09-14) (aged 99)
Hong Kong
Ida, Lady Kan
( m. 1940; died 1999)
Education Diocesan Boys' School
Alma mater University of Hong Kong (BA, 1934)
London School of Economics (LLB, 1937)
Occupation politician, banker, solicitor
Kan Yuet-keung
Traditional Chinese 簡悅強
Simplified Chinese 间悦强

Sir Yuet-keung Kan GBE JP (Chinese: 簡悅強, 26 July 1913 – 14 September 2012) was a Hong Kong banker, politician and lawyer who was successively appointed Senior Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council and Executive Council in the 1960s and 1970s. He also served as chairman of the Bank of East Asia for 20 years.


Early years

Kan was born on 26 July 1913 in Hong Kong to a wealthy family which is descended from Shunde, Canton. He has thirteen siblings and he ranked fourth amongst them.[1] His father, Tong-po Kan, JP (簡東浦), was a founder of the Bank of East Asia. His youngest brother, Professor Yuet-Wai Kan (簡悅威), is a notable American physician who was awarded the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine in 2004.

Kan studied in Diocesan Boys' School in his early years. Upon graduation, he wished to be a doctor but gave up the idea when his family opposed it. He was enrolled to the University of Hong Kong and resided in Morrison Hall. He graduated from the University in 1934 and obtained a BA degree. As an alumnus of the Morrison Hall, he once recalled that "Morrisonians have always had such wonderful team spirit!"[2] He then moved to the United Kingdom for further study and read law in the London School of Economics. He worked briefly in a firm in England after graduation and returned to Hong Kong in 1938, where he became a practising solicitor.

Business career

Kan had a fast-growing career in law, business and banking in Hong Kong. He once worked as a senior partner of the famous local law firm, Lo & Lo, and was successively served as the chairman of the Law Society of Hong Kong and a member of the Society's disciplinary committee. He was also director of Hong Kong Land and Harbour Centre Development Limited for some time. Besides, Kan had taken over his family banking business, and served as chairman of the Bank of East Asia from 1963 to 1983.

From 1970 to 1975, he was appointed as the chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for the first time. During his tenure, the Council expanded rapidly and had set up new offices in Frankfurt, Vienna, Tokyo, Amsterdam, etc. In 1973, the Council participated in the New York's International Toy Fair for the first time. Kan left the Council in 1975 but was re-appointed in 1979. In his second tenure, he kept on visiting different countries and promoting trading benefits of Hong Kong. On the other hand, the Council tied up closer relationship with Japan by setting up a new office in Osaka in 1979 and establishing an Economic Cooperation Committee with the Japanese government. In 1980, he also led a business tour to visit Canton. Kan finally retired from the Council in 1983.[citation needed]

Public service

As early as 1957, Kan was appointed as a councillor of the Urban Council and served as a member of the government's Public Service Commission from July 1959 to June 1961.[3]

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1959 Queen's Birthday Honours.[4] He left the Urban Council in 1961 and became an unofficial member of the Legislative Council.[5][6] He was named chairman of the government's Transport Advisory Committee.

A cross-harbour Star Ferry

During his chairmanship of the Transport Advisory Committee in 1966, the Star Ferry applied for an increase of the first class fare of the cross-Victoria Harbour ferry from 20-cent to 25-cent and the application was soon approved by the Advisory Committee. The fare increase did not include the third class and therefore the grass roots community was largely unaffected, since the passengers of the first class deck were usually from the wealthier sector of the society. However, when the fare increase was announced by the government, it resulted in a general dissidence from the grass roots community as the Star Ferry was the only major cross-harbour public transportation at that time. The chairman of Star Ferry, M. A. R. Herries, worsened the situation when he publicly commented that "people who do not want to pay the first class fare can simply change their mind to the third class deck". That statement made a public outcry and was one of the blasting fuses of the Kowloon Riots afterwards.

Apart from his membership in the Legislative Council, he was additionally appointed as an unofficial member of the Executive Council by then governor Sir David Trench in 1966.[7][8] As the Cultural Revolution had just commenced, the political situations of both Hong Kong and mainland China became increasingly unstable. In 1967, the turbulence from the mainland finally spilled over to Hong Kong, resulting in the disastrous Leftist Riots which began as a labour dispute in an artificial flower factory in San Po Kong. During the nearly year-long Leftist Riots, Kan held a hard line towards the rioters. He made a keynote speech in the Legislative Council, insisting those bombers be brought to justice and even death sentence for serious offences.[9] He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1967 Queen's Birthday Honours.[10]

After the riot, Kan was further promoted to the status of the senior unofficial member of the Legislative Council in 1968.[11] Afterwards, he began holding a variety of public posts including the chairmanships or the memberships of the School Medical Service Board, Public Service Commission, Social Welfare Advisory Committee, the Legislative Council's Finance Committee, etc.

Kan was knighted in the 1972 New Year Honours,[12] and travelled to Buckingham Palace to receive the accolade in July.[13] He retired from the Legislative Council that same year, but continued to serve on the Executive Council.[14][15] In 1974, he was appointed senior unofficial member of the Executive Council. Soon afterwards, the price of rice in Hong Kong rose drastically and it resulted in a general inflation. To solve the problem, the government appointed Sir Yuet Keung as the first ever chairman of the Consumer Council in the history of Hong Kong.[16]

In 1978, a strike began by local civil servants. He was called to hold talks with the strikers and successfully reconciled the dispute. When Queen Elizabeth II visited Hong Kong for the first time in 1977, in his capacity as the senior unofficial member of the Executive Council, he delivered the welcome speech to the Queen in the City Hall. In March 1979, he accompanied then-governor Sir Murray MacLehose to pay a secret visit to Beijing, where both of them had a meeting with Deng Xiaoping. Knowing that the Communist China insisted on obtaining Hong Kong by 1997 and the British Government intended to give up over the issue of sovereignty, Sir Yuet Keung felt the future of Hong Kong was less assured. After the visit, he was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE),[17] and retired from the Executive Council in 1980, choosing to fade out from the politics of Hong Kong.

Later years

Kan was appointed life member of Court of the University of Hong Kong in 1972, he was also appointed life member of the Council of the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1983. He was the chairman of the Council of the Chinese University from 1973 to 1982, and from 1983 to 1996, he was the Pro-Chancellor of the Chinese University.

In retirement, Kan lived in Hong Kong but had almost withdrawn from public life. He died on 14 September 2012, aged 99.[18] His funeral was quietly held at Hong Kong Funeral Home on 18 September 2012.[19] He is interred in the ossuary at Hong Kong Cemetery.


Kan married his wife Ida in 1940. They have two sons and a daughter.



Honorary degrees

Other public posts held

  • Member of the Council of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (1963–1967)
  • Chairman of the Chung Chi College Board of Trustees[21] (1964–1968)
  • Chairman of the Council of the Chinese University (1971–1982)
  • Life member of Court of the University of Hong Kong (appointed 1 February 1972)[22]
  • Life member of the Council of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (appointed 1983)
  • Pro-Chancellor of the Chinese University (1983–1996)


  1. ^ 简悦威:首届邵逸夫生命科学奖得主 Archived 28 November 2004 at the Wayback Machine. Xz6.2000y.net. Retrieved on 31 December 2011.
  2. ^ "Sharing of Alumni (in chronological order)". Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2008.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). hku.hk
  3. ^ http://www.psc.gov.hk/tc_chi/ann_rep/files/00repc.pdf (PDF) Archived 29 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 31 December 2011.
  4. ^ a b "No. 41727". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 June 1959. p. 3721.
  5. ^ "No. 42387". The London Gazette. 16 June 1961. p. 4496.
  6. ^ "No. 43312". The London Gazette. 1 May 1964. p. 3773.
  7. ^ "No. 44014". The London Gazette. 7 June 1966. p. 6598.
  8. ^ "No. 44615". The London Gazette. 18 June 1968. p. 6800.
  9. ^ Yep, Ray (2008). "The 1967 Riots in Hong Kong: The Diplomatic and Domestic Fronts of the Colonial Governor". The China Quarterly. 193: 122–139. doi:10.1017/S0305741008000076. ISSN 0305-7410.
  10. ^ a b "No. 44326". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 June 1967. p. 6288.
  11. ^ "No. 44615". The London Gazette. 18 June 1968. p. 6799.
  12. ^ a b "No. 45554". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1971. pp. 1–2.
  13. ^ "No. 45731". The London Gazette. 21 July 1972. p. 8753.
  14. ^ "No. 45589". The London Gazette. 3 February 1972. p. 1378.
  15. ^ "No. 45747". The London Gazette. 8 August 1972. p. 9448.
  16. ^ Annual Report 2002-2003 Archived 12 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. (PDF). consumer.org.hk. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  17. ^ a b "No. 47869". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1979. p. 7.
  18. ^ Kan, Yuet Keung (retrieved on 1 November 2013)
  19. ^ 〈簡悅強逝世終年99歲〉,《信報財經新聞》A13,2012年9月19日。
  20. ^ Sir Yuet Keung Kan has been the longest serving Justice of Peace since 2007. See lists of Hong Kong Justices of Peace
  21. ^ Sir Yuet Keung Kan played an important role in the foundation of the Chung Chi College. Under his assistance after the World War II, the College was recognized by the government as a qualified higher education institute. He also participated in the drafting of the Written Provision of the College and helped to build new campus for the College in Ma Liu Shui.
  22. ^ Membership of the Court of the University of Hong Kong Archived 9 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Hku.hk. Retrieved 31 December 2011.


External links

Business positions
Preceded by
Kang Tung-po
Chairman of the Bank of East Asia
Succeeded by
Li Fook-wo
Political offices
Preceded by
Dhun Jehangir Ruttonjee
Senior Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council
Succeeded by
Woo Pak-chuen
Preceded by
Sir S. N. Chau
Chairman of Hong Kong Trade Development Council
Succeeded by
T. K. Ann
New creation Chairman of Hong Kong Consumer Council
Succeeded by
Lo Kwee-seong
Preceded by
Sir Albert Rodrigues
Senior Unofficial Member of the Executive Council
Succeeded by
Sir Sidney Gordon
Preceded by
T. K. Ann
Chairman of Hong Kong Trade Development Council
Succeeded by
Lydia Dunn
Academic offices
Preceded by
Kwan Cho-yiu
Chairman of the Council of the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Lee Quo-wei

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