24 January 2022
SOAS Honorary Fellow Sir Joseph Hotung, the Hong Kong philanthropist and businessman, died in London on 16 December 2021. Sir Joseph, the grandson of Sir Robert Hotung, was born in Shanghai where he lived during his formative years. For much of his working life he was involved in Hong Kong real estate development and investments. Among many prominent positions he held in Hong Kong, he served as a director of HSBC Holdings plc, was on the board of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), was a director of the Hong Kong Electric Holdings Ltd, a director of the China & Eastern Investment Company and the first Chairman of the Art Development Council in Hong Kong.
In the 1970s, Sir Joseph embarked on what became a lifelong passion both studying and collecting works of art. He collected distinguished works from many cultures, but it was his keen eye for archaic Chinese jades that developed into a world-renowned collection which is now on display at the British Museum in London.
Sir Joseph funded the renovation of the Oriental gallery of the British Museum in 1992, and again after 25 years, in 2017. He was a Trustee of the British Museum from 1994-2004 and subsequently Trustee Emeritus. He was very well respected as a board member of major art museums on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Sir Joseph's philanthropic interests were not confined to the arts but were wide and varied. He had a particular passion for education and human rights. He funded a postdoctoral research program at Columbia University in New York, and established a program for Law, Human Rights, and Peace Building in the Middle East at SOAS University of London where he also sat on the governing board. He was a Council Member of the University of Hong Kong and a founding member of the University of Hong Kong Business School.
The Sir Joseph Hotung Charitable Settlement, has also been a major benefactor of medical and healthcare charities, most notably at St George's University Hospital in London, where he funded research into molecular immunology and HIV/AIDS. Most recently, the program has funded research into macular degeneration at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and supported Fauna and Flora International, an international conservation charity in its programme of forestry regeneration and related ecological issues.
Sir Joseph was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1993 for his charitable activities.
Tribute by Carol Michaelson, Curator in the Department of Oriental Antiquities (later Dept of Asia) at The British Museum