Anna Pao SOHMEN
2008 Honorary Doctorate
Professor Anna Pao Sohmen has been involved with the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts since 1989, when she founded the Society for APA. The aim was to bring the Academy closer to the Hong Kong community, to change the general attitude towards a performing arts career and to build a wider audience base for performing arts in general. 25 years hence, the Academy has been changed from being called ‘the white elephant of Wanchai’ to a well esteemed institute where quality performances are given and student quality and audience base are both developing soundly.
For 20 years, she has been tirelessly involved in raising the profile, raising the standard, as well as raising funds for the Academy, whether it be the Film School or later the Cantonese Opera. She helped develop a musical instruments’ library, increased scholarships and student exchanges. As a chairperson, she was demanding, inspiring and imaginative. Besides the development of the Film School and Cantonese Opera, she helped establish the Extension and Continuing Education for Life courses (EXCEL), further reaching into the community. She helped to initiate a relationship with the mainland conservatories. With her persevering effort, she helped renovate Béthanie House and sponsored the research for the book about Béthanie House, ‘The French Secrets in a British Colony’. She also saved the two adjoining cowsheds at Pokfulam from the bulldozer.
Professor Sohmen served on the Cultural and Heritage Commission. She helped to bring traditional dance groups from the PRC to the Hong Kong Dance Festival. She herself is a keen dancer. Starting ballroom dancing only some eight years ago, she won the world championship at the Pro-Am of the American International Ballroom Competition. She has also served as advisor to the Beijing Music Festival and Berlin Festival.
Professor Sohmen has been devoted to education. 25 years ago she was one of the founders of the Chinese International School. She is the Honorary President of Ningbo University; advisory professor of Shanghai Jiaotong University, Zhejiang University and Tongji University. She was awarded an Honorary doctorate degree at Purdue University, being instrumental in introducing arts education to an engineering university. She is now setting up a primary and secondary school in Shanghai, China, The Y K Pao School, named after her late father.
In the community, Professor Sohmen has been an active member on the Town Planning Board, the Business Coalition on the Environment, the Small and Medium Enterprises Committee, and the Financial Secretary’s Business Advisory Group. She is the founder of the Hong Kong Eco-Products Awards and is the honorary chairman of the Chinese Manufacturer’s Association. She was a founding member of the Helping Hand for the Aged, and a founding chairman of the Hong Kong Liver Foundation, helping to change the attitude of Hong Kong people towards organ donation.
In Mainland she serves as the Standing Committee Member of the Zhejiang Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the Standing Committee Member of Heilongjiang CPPCC. Recently, she has been elected to the National CPPCC. She is advisor to Ningbo City, convenor of Hua Xia Educational Trust, governor of the Soong Ching Ling Foundation, and a trustee of the Chinese People Handicapped Foundation. She was formerly a Hong Kong – Macau Affairs Advisor and a member of the Committee for the Election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Committee.
She is also involved in the family business as a director of some of the shipping companies, and the chairman of World-Wide Education Group. She was awarded the Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs of Hong Kong Award in 1999, and subsequently the Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World Award in 2000. She received the Mont Blanc Award, the Hong Kong Silver Bauhinia Star, Zhejiang Model Citizen Award, and the Heilongjiang Jasmine Orchid Award for her distinguished services to the arts and to the community.