From the beginning

Hong Kong Toastmasters Club is part of the worldwide Toastmasters International movement. We belong to Area 2, Division GDistrict 89 of Toastmasters International.

Our club, founded in 1954, is the oldest Toastmasters club in Hong Kong and in the entire Asia Pacific Region. The lead was taken by Adam Aitken, a Scot native and a Royal Air Force veteran who had been a member of High Noon Toastmasters in New York.

The Hong Kong Toastmasters Club’s charter certificate issued by Toastmasters International and singed the TI’s founder Ralph Smedley

Barely nine years after English was restored as the official language of Hong Kong, in 1954, a group of 21 young men, led by Adam Aitken, asked Toastmasters International for recognition as the Hong Kong Toastmasters Club. Youthful though the group was, it comprised a wide spectrum of rising stars in the business, banking, insurance, education, political, diplomatic and civil service sectors. There were WWII veterans and former prisoners-of-war among them. Their purpose was not to learn the English language afresh but to establish a dedicated training ground for acquiring better public speaking skills for their leadership roles elsewhere.

Hong Kong Toastmasters Club’s founder Mr. Adam Aitken (right).

Together with other founding members, among them Charter Secretary Arthur Gomes, legislators Sir Roger Lobo and Sir Dr. Albert Rodrigues (former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong), Hilton Cheong-Leen and A de O Sales (both former Urban Council chairmen, with de O Sales also being the Immediate Past President of Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee), the Club began their Monday regular meetings in the middle of 1954 at the former Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Headquarters Building, 1 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong.

HSBC 1936
HSBC Building in 1936

HSBC 1936” Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Since then, men and women from all walks of life joined in and they reaped benefits from participating in toastmasters programs. Many have become prominent members in all sectors of society – in banking, politics, civil services, professional disciplines, education, etc.

Apart from nurturing and empowering its members, Hong Kong Toastmasters Club has been the driving force of the Toastmasters movement in Hong Kong in the 1990s, leading to the growth of clubs from six to more than thirty.

Club Lusitano’s ballroom, the 1970s, meeting venue of the HKTM Club

A Watershed Year

1997 was a watershed year for our club. Prior to 1997, clubs in Hong Kong did not actively participate in the TI program, which awards points on education, membership and leadership achievements. Not only did we not actively submit our achievements to TI for their records, but the Toastmasters clubs in Hong Kong also did not belong to any District.

Due to the tireless effort of Andy See, the visionary President at the time, Hong Kong was placed in Division T together with Thailand and we belonged to District 51 (comprising Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong.) HKTMC was keen to join District 51 not due to our geographical proximity, but because it was simply the best; it was the World’s No. 1 District for the next 5 consecutive years.

First President’s Distinguished Club Award

Eventually, our membership ballooned to 135 by the end of July 1999. We also sponsored so many new clubs – Centraler, Island, South Horizon, TGIT, Shanghai and Macau; plus many in the universities which were formed after 1999.

In August 1999, our club received our first President’s Distinguished Club Award – the highest club award in Toastmasters – many of the club’s excom members flew all the way to Chicago to receive the award from the hands of the International President of Toastmasters Terry Daly. We were never so proud!

Club’s excom member John being congratulated by then Toastmasters International President Terry Daly