Early Student Activities

Recap of Student Activities
Nip Ka-pik


The early days of New Asia College’s establishment, especially during the Kweilin Street period, were exactly like what the anthem says: “empty hands, not an object”. Teachers and students were often occupied with their academics and livelihoods, with little spare time. Extra-curricular activities for students were a luxury. Nevertheless, teachers and students still cherished group activities, as students would gather and organise parties or balls every Christmas or new year or on special festival, when academic staffs participated enthusiastically. Both sides enjoyed the functions together, like a big family. Another remarkable “activity” was publishing bulletins, which was considered the most economic-efficient and direct method to draw readers and writers together. Students of New Asia constantly excelled in the academic fields of literature, history, or philosophy. This was more or less attributed to the extensive reading and writing tradition.


The Farm Road campus was instituted in 1956. The campus size was not large, yet facilities were comprehensive, including a student hostel. Students hailing from Southeast Asia or other distant locations were accommodated there. Hostel residents could save much time for transportation, and, as most non-local students were scholarship awardees, they were comparatively well-off. As a result, the extra-curricular activities organised by them were typically more successful than those by locals. One of the most active student bodies in the early 1960s was the “Nanyang Students’ Club”.


The institution of the Farm Road Campus signified a new era of the relationship between the Yale-in-China Association and New Asia. From 1956, the Yale-in-China Association commenced to deploy Yale graduates by selection to New Asia for English teaching. The majority of the Yale academic staffs were fresh graduates, mingling with local students easily. Among the Yale graduates, many were talented scholars or athletic prospects, who eagerly provided assistance for various activities outside lessons, truly making cultural exchange between the East and the West.


The most historical student bodies of New Asia would be the department societies of Literature and History, Philosophy and Education, Economics, and Business Administration. Sadly, records and archives of such societies have been long lost, leading to a void in their history. It is known that the departments above were the first to be set up by the College, and their respective student bodies were also the first in New Asia College.


As for student interest groups, the Christian Fellowship and Catholic Students’ Club were pioneers. For internationally recognised groups, it would be the World University Service.


In terms of organisation, these student bodies were all independently operated, without a centralized hub of co-ordination, nor an institution-wide students’ union.


After long years of preparations, the Chinese University was officially instituted in 1963. As the students from the three colleges yearned for a schoolwide celebration, students’ unions of colleges were prompted into existence.


Initially, the University was skeptical of a strong and organised students’ union. As most academic staff originated from mainland China, they had a solid grudge against mainland Chinese student bodies led by pro-communist “students” during the pre-liberation era. The staff also had the perception that, upon the establishment of a students’ union, clashes with the University would emerge, sabotaging the harmony between students and teachers. Thus, the student organisers back then spent huge efforts in negotiations before finally successfully convincing the university management to abandon its prejudices. As a result, a students’ union was authorized to be founded in 1964.


The year 1964 could be regarded as a milestone for extra-curricular activities of New Asia College. In line with the constant development of the University and a growing number of students, the duties of the students’ union were becoming arduous. The organisers of the union in that year were as the following: Chan, Chung-ling (History), Wu, Yiu-fai (Chinese), Chu, Ping-chiu (Economics), Cheng, Hei-chiu (Chemistry), Law, Ling and Nip, Ka-pik (Sociology). Cheng had the title of the President of the first Students’ Union, while Nip was the head of the Council.


The establishment of the Students’ Union turned over a new leaf of students’ life, and its annual election became one of the most prominent events on campus. The Union ran in the form of a responsible cabinet, and the council (later re-structured to a representative council) supervised the operation of the Union. Heated elections occurred every year in early October in a fiery, vehement atmosphere. It drew a stark contrast to the indifference and coldness nowadays.


All student bodies were supervised by the Disciplinary Office (renamed to the Dean of Students’ Office) of the College. All student organisations must be registered to the College, which treated all registered groups with absolute equality. All these years, the organisations co-existed in harmony without dissension at all.


Apart from the students’ union, department societies, religious groups, and diverse interest groups could be found in New Asia College, which activities infused the campus with a rich academic and artistic ambience.


New Asia’s most successful interest groups must be the Chinese Music Society and the Student Social Service Society. The former was founded in 1960, with zealous support from the College and community enthusiasts. The society was granted a venue site (even the Students’ Union did not have its own back then), allowing the purchase of more musical instruments, training and research classes, and the engagement of local renowned masters to give lectures. The Chinese Music Society immediately became Hong Kong’s largest traditional Chinese Music institute, playing a fundamental role in propelling Chinese music education in Hong Kong. Another characteristic of this club was the eager participation of academic staff and their spouses. Former president Ch’ien Mu and Mrs. Ch’ien, Mrs. Tang Chun-i, wife of the registrar, Department of Chinese Chairman Professor Pan Cong-kui, Mr. Su Lin-guan from the Physics Department and many more, had all actively partook of the Society’s classes and projects. Tam Yue-him from the English Department was one of the founding members of the Society, and had been its president several times. In 1975, Doctor Tam returned to CUHK, and took up the role of society advisor, assisting in its affairs.


The Student Social Service Society was founded by Economics student Kam Wai-pui in 1968, who subsequently was elected as Students’ Union President. This Society was one of the most stable and robust student bodies of New Asia College. Even when student movements were in a slump, the Society still connected like-minded students to engage in different functions to serve our society.


The rise and fall of student interest groups were as unpredictable as the weather. The once popular Chinese Opera Society, Chess Society, Bridge Society, Fishing Society, and others all withered due to a lack of leadership. The Chinese Culture Society also could not escape such fate. It once arranged well-acknowledged academic seminars in its heyday (mid-1970s). Its publication Ren Wen (translated as “The Humanities”) was among the best in the tertiary education circle. Most notably, Wang Dao Bian Jing Tian Di Kuan (literally, Beholding the Way, You Will Find What an Amazingly Wide World It Is) published in 1975 became a bestseller, and bought huge revenues to the Society. Sadly, the Society ceased operation in the late 1970s due to the lack of successors.


Some student bodies developed steadily. They were not in the limelight, but demonstrated the power of persistence. The Photography Society, the Folk Song Society, and the Astronomy Society were such examples. The Photography Society was a long-standing student body with a darkroom and basic equipment. The Astronomy Society was blessed with relentless efforts from Sun Jing-wu of the Physics Department, which resulted in the success of the assembling of a telescope with a 12.5-inch diameter, the largest among local amateur astronomy groups in 1977, the society’s inauguration year. The then Dean of Students, Tam Yue-him, provided enthusiastic assistance by soliciting support from the University, and by earning a subsidy from the optic instrument tycoon Haking Wong for an observatory-standard device to install Sun’s telescope. The Folk Song Society persistently summoned up the support of compatible students to outstanding outcomes. The College Plaza was their activity venue at night, and eminent popular singers like Aling Choi and Christopher Wong were core members. Their performances from their university days are still cherished to this day. The motive for establishing the Society was to consolidate amity through enhancing students’ interest in and knowledge of folk songs. With 95 members, the Folk Song Society not only stimulated folk music on campus, but also liaised with their peers at the University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic, forming amiable bonds. Apart from this, the Society also published songbooks and compiled teaching material for guitar courses.


The history of the New Asia Choir could be described as a legend. The choir had performances dating back to student-arranged gigs in 1958, with academic staff Tang Duan-zheng, Chow Cheunk-waai, Hu Shi, and Huang Lian as members. Mr. Chiu Wai-yin acted as conductor. He left for the United States sometime later, signifying a halt in the choir’s operation. From the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, English Department lecturer Father Joseph Egan prized the Choir. With the recruitment of Yale-in-China teaching staff as new blood, the Choir successively performed classic operas like Madame Butterfly and The Mikado, earning critical acclaim from various fields. Upon Father Egan’s retirement in 1974, the Choir experienced another hiatus until 1980, when Chiu returned to greet staff and students, infusing remarkable energy and positivity on campus.


The Drama Society was also a long-standing student body. The New Asia Drama Club won multiple inter-university drama competitions in the early 1960s. Early key figures included Li Jin-zhong, Tam Yue-him, Poon Wah-dong, Lei Yuan-xi and others. Given a well-equipped school hall during the Farm Road period, the annual inter-faculty drama contest often drew a large audience, making it one of the most prominent student events. After the College’s relocation to the Sha Tin campus, specifically after the opening of the more sophisticatedly furnished Sir Run Run Shaw Hall, students’ interest in drama was even more elevated. The Club achieved brilliant results throughout the history of the drama competitions among the three early colleges. New Asia almost secured every major award.


With merely a history of a decade or so, the Kungfu Society was one of the most flourishing student bodies, somehow entirely rooting from the College’s Board of Trustees member Cheung Wai-lun’s immense support. Trustee Cheung not only financially aided the Society (sponsoring $23,000 every year for remuneration for the Kungfu masters), but was also actively involved in the annual “Night Congee Meeting” to promote the exchange of martial arts. In the past, the Kungfu Society would deploy a lion dance squad to hostels every lunar Chinese new year to greet staff and students, infusing remarkable energy and positivity on campus.


The Business Administration Society was a body formed in 1970, which aimed to facilitate bonding and academic research simultaneously. It ceaselessly organised activities for academics, amity, welfare, external communications and others throughout its history. The 1988 “Showcase of Hong Kong Industries” organised alongside the Business Administration Society of United College was a rare student-led large-scale activity.


Last but not least, the three hostel residents associations of Chih Hsing, Xuesi, and Grace Tien must be introduced. As their names suggest, their service targets were hostel residents. Besides arranging a tuck shop for convenience, resident associations also arranged different activities to build up rapport. Since half of our students are hostel residents, the significance of hall life has gained widespread attention.