Birmingham in Hong Kong

We're recognising the University's longstanding relationship with Hong Kong, and inviting alumni to share their memories of Birmingham.

Birmingham in Hong Kong logoHong Kong is home to almost 3,000 Birmingham alumni, the biggest concentration of alumni anywhere outside of the UK. Hong Kong really is Birmingham’s second home. Our alumni in Hong Kong have made a vital contribution to its status as ‘Asia’s world city’, impacting all fields and walks of life, from business, the legal profession, to government and religion. Your achievements, and upholding of Birmingham’s values and vision has made us proud.

We want to recognise all that you do and achieve. Over the course of 2020 we are collecting stories and asking you to share your memories from your time at Birmingham and to help us find alumni we have lost touch with. Last year we struck the University of Birmingham Hong Kong Medal to recognise those alumni and friends who have made an outstanding contribution to the University or to civic life in Hong Kong. Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-Li GMB was the first recipient, with our alumni and friends gathering to honour him at special reception last October. 

We are keen to hear from you who we should honour with the Hong Kong Medal in the future, and who from our alumni community we should be celebrating over the course of the year. You can complete an alumni profile on the website, highlighting your achievements, and also honour alumni whose achievements you feel should be recognised (these may be current alumni, or alumni of the past). We'll be profiling some of you online and via email and social media throughout the year. 

Get in touch with your fellow Birmingham graduates by joining the University of Birmingham Alumni Association Hong Kong on Facebook. BUAAHK organise various events including an annual hike and celebration of the University’s founding. All alumni are welcome to take part.

You can view some highlights from select alumni below, and we'll be adding to this page over the course of the year. Finally, make sure to update your contact details to receive all the latest news from campus.

Honour alumni

Tell us about Hong Kong alumni (from the present or the past) who you would like to recognise.

 

Alumni helping the disadvantaged in Hong Kong

Keeping in touch is more important than ever during a pandemic lockdown. Whether it’s speaking with family, working from home, building your future or keeping up with schoolwork, the right technology can bring the world to us when we can’t go outside.

That’s why the HKBN Group, whose senior management includes alumni Billy Yeung (PG Dip Business Administration, 1987; MBA, 1988) and Adrian Watt (BEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering, 1990), has mobilised to help those in need.

  • To help every customer, many of whom may be facing financial uncertainty, HKBN has provided a free month of broadband
  • Two years of free broadband services has been provided for 10,000 disadvantaged families across Hong Kong
  • To help new graduates who are entering such a difficult job market right now, the HKBN group has launched “#ToughTimesTogether - Career Kickstarter for Graduates”. 100 graduates will receive a three-month learning and career opportunity, to help them build up their experience
  • HKBN is working with care homes to ensure residents can keep in touch with their families through video calls, by providing tablets

University of Birmingham alumnus Billy YeungBilly (pictured) studied his MBA at the University of Birmingham, to support his passion for customer engagement and operational efficiency. Billy is Co-Owner and CEO of HKBN Enterprise Solutions Ltd & JOS Group, Founder & Executive Director of Y5ZONE.

Adrian, Co-Owner, Chief Commercial Officer - Carrier Business and Major Accounts of HKBN Enterprise Solutions Ltd, studied Electronic and Electrical Engineering, graduating in 1990.

In the following video, Billy looks back on his time at Birmingham.

Geoffrey Ma (LLB Law, 1977)

The Honourable Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma (LLB Law, 1977) was the inaugural recipient of the University of Birmingham Hong Kong medal. The interview below was first published in 2015.

Geoffrey MaWhat do you remember most about your time at Birmingham?

It has been more than 40 years since I started my studies at the University of Birmingham. The lingering memory is the beauty of the University; it must be one of the most beautiful university campuses in the world. It is such a scenic city with so much to explore.

What are your memories of celebrating New Year in Birmingham?

Funnily enough, apart from raiding the Chinese restaurants in the city and eating to excess, I don’t recall much else! Perhaps that is the sum total of what one does during that time.

As an engaged alumnus of the University, what gives you the greatest sense of pleasure?

In recent years, I have been honoured to have been part of the University’s work in reconnecting with its alumni in Hong Kong. The University is not only relevant to the people who happen to be studying there at any given time, it continues to take an interest in all of its students - past, present and future - with a particular interest in the contribution to the community made by alumni. I have always felt a deep sense of belonging to the University of Birmingham and am glad that more alumni now feel the same.

As part of your sustained relationship with the University, you have also supported current students. What has your involvement been and what have you enjoyed about this?

In 2014, I attended an event organised by the Birmingham Pass Society at the Hong Kong Bankers Club to give a talk on Judicial Independence. It was really well attended by students, alumni, and distinguished guests such as the former Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association. Shortly afterwards, nearly 25 students came to the Court of Final Appeal for a tour of our Court followed by dinner. The students were all serious about their University lives and their future careers, as well as their role within the community. I was impressed with their commitment in assisting current and future students through initiatives such as the mentoring programme.

Read a more in-depth profile of Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma.

Mawin Cheung (MBA Strategy and Procurement Management, 1987)

Entrepreneur Mawin Cheung (MBA Strategy and Procurement Management, 1987) is doing his bit to promote a healthy lifestyle in Hong Kong with his own organic gardening company. This article was first published online in Old Joe in 2016.

Organic farming takes root in Fragrant Harbour

University alumnus Mawin CheungMore green-fingered citizens of Hong Kong are growing their own herbs and vegetables thanks to inspiration from University alumnus Mawin Cheung.

Picture Hong Kong in your mind and you’ll likely think of a bustling metropolis; a centre of modern architecture with more high-rise apartments than any other city in the world. You’re unlikely to think of vegetable plots on those same apartment rooftops.

But those patches of green are becoming increasingly common among the urban landscape as more of the local population turn to organic farming in pursuit of a more healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Former bank executive Mawin Cheung turned promoter of organic gardening in 2012 when he left his job to start Easy Organic Farming, a company that helps organisations and households establish portable organic gardens.

He was first inspired to change career path when he and his wife began growing their own vegetables and enjoyed the process so much, he thought others would as well.

'I want to enable communities in Hong Kong and beyond to have an opportunity to learn more about organic farming and to inspire people to grow their own healthy foods, even when living and working in the city,' he says.

Read the full article from our official alumni magazine Old Joe.

Frankie Yick (MSc Industrial Management, 1980)

Come back soon for a video interview with Frankie!

Alumnus Frankie YickSince completing his Masters at Birmingham Frankie Yick (MSc Industrial Management, 1980) has gone on to a varied career in manufacturing, transport logistics and most recently politics, where he has been working to keep Hong Kong’s public transport system as one of the world leaders. A proud graduate of the University, Frankie has hosted events for fellow alumni and continues to stay in touch with friends from his time in the UK.

Why did you study at Birmingham?

I was initially inspired by my Industrial Engineering Professor during my studies at Hong Kong University – he had graduated from Birmingham. As the second largest city in the UK and a highly industrialised area, studying Industrial Management at Birmingham felt like the right choice for me. The university campus is relatively large and centralised, forming its own community. It is a very nice place at which to study.

What are your memories of your time here?

My classmates and schoolmates were friendly. A group of us studied and worked closely together. That year was one of the best times of my life and I enjoyed very much the friendships I developed there. Even after 35 years, we are still in contact.

Can you outline your career path following university?

I started as an engineer in a multinational toy manufacturing company, continuing to work in the industrial sector for 14 years in various managerial positions. With the opening up of China in the same period, a lot of manufacturing activities started to move to the mainland because of cheap land and labour costs.

I was then recruited by the Wharf Group, a Hong Kong conglomerate as the divisional chief in their transportation arm, running 10 businesses including The Star Ferry, the Hong Kong Tramways, The Cross Harbour Tunnel operations, the construction and management of the Western Harbour Crossing, learner driver training and electronic toll collection systems. In 2006 I started to get involved in logistics with container terminal and air cargo terminal operations. In 2012, I was elected to represent the Transport Functional Constituency in the Legislative Council of the HKSAR.

So I have moved from manufacturing to the service industry and then into politics. I am basically a full time legislator even though I am still a full time employee of the Wharf Group.

Hong Kong faces unique challenges with its transport links. How has the territory tackled these in the past, and what are the plans for the future?

Hong Kong’s public transport has been the envy of the world. It is basically all operated by the private sector without government subsidy. The Third Comprehensive Transport Study 15 years ago has set the direction to adopt a mass transit railway system as the back bone of public transport, while other transport modes such as bus, minibus, taxi and ferry services are supplementary services to meet the community’s demand.

More rail lines are now under development to meet the future demand, especially for new housing developments outside the established urban areas. When all these new rail lines are completed, they will cover 70 per cent of the population. Other than the well-developed rail network, the fares on all transport modes are relatively affordable compared to other cities in the developed world. The government is now conducting another strategic study to examine the roles of the supplementary transport modes to see how we can maintain their sustainable development in the next decade.

However, as time changes some of the operating modes, like the ferry services to the outlying islands, will need financial support from the government in order to maintain those services, because of the ever-rising operating cost with limited growth of residents there.

The Hong Kong International Airport has been ranked as the global leader for a number of years and Hong Kong is regarded as one of the major international aviation hubs in the region. With the airport almost up to its capacity, planning for a third runway is now underway, with the goal of commissioning the work for 2023. Hong Kong needs to build on its strength in order to ensure that it is always one step ahead of the competition.

Birmingham students meet Hong Kong alumni

In June 2019, 24 Birmingham students travelled to Hong Kong through the University's Study Abroad programme, and had the opportunity to meet local alumni as part of the visit. They made video diaries of their experiences and what they learned on the trip.

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