A Loving Technology

14 December 1998

I would like to welcome you all to this press conference to announce the establishment of the Shantou University/The Chinese University of Hong Kong Joint International Eye Centre.

While in Shantou for the opening ceremony of Shantou University’s Second Affiliated Hospital last month, the doctors there told me two very touching stories, which took place in two remote villages in the mainland:

A woman who had lost her vision since the age of 8 due to a congenital cataract condition cried every day. All the children in her village made fun of her by calling her the “Crying Woman”. In February this year, under the care and assistance of the Hospital’s voluntary staff, she received an eye operation. When the bandages were removed and she saw the light, a radiant smile appeared on her face for the first time in over 30 years. She said she would never cry again.

The second story concerns a father and his son, both blind from a congenital eye disease. They were able to recover their vision after receiving an operation recently. It was a moving moment when they opened their eyes and saw each other for the first time.

To the casual listener, these two examples may be no more than heart-warming tales, but to the eye disease sufferers, technology and the human touch changed their fates. Modern technology has advanced significantly in many different areas, but the progress in the field of medicine has been particularly far-reaching and rapid. Every day the media brings us news of revolutionary breakthroughs; the Human Genome Project holds promise for identification of every gene in man within the next 10 years. Perhaps we can even conjecture that in the future, human beings will be better looking, smarter, stronger. Complemented by the development of other high efficiency systems, artificial intelligence will reach higher levels; faster modes of transport will be developed, as will more powerful weapons. Yet, can we assume that human beings will be happier, stronger-willed, more persevering? Will we be better decision-makers? Will we have higher moral standards and concern for society? Even though technological progress can improve society up to a certain point, it is moral fortitude and good will that form the foundation for a caring society.

No two people have exactly the same experiences in this world, so I do not like to discuss other people’s affairs. But to me, giving my time, energy and resources to support the development of education and medical services is an undertaking that will continue beyond my own lifetime. We are very pleased that Shantou University has the opportunity to work with The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The Chinese University has a great pool of talented people in the field of ophthalmology; they have achieved outstanding results and earned a good international reputation. Shantou University Medical College, on the other hand, has built a solid foundation, and its four affiliated hospitals are also well-established. I have high hopes for this joint project, and I firmly believe that through academic and practical exchanges, training of personnel, and the utilization of medical advances, the Joint International Eye Centre can establish itself as a model that can be expanded or utilized elsewhere. Thank you very much.