Professor Wee Lian-Hee has been recognised by awards such as the HKBU President's Award for his work on exploring linguistics and for teaching students how sounds are used in languages, but less known is his other labour of love, for which he lends his energy and oratory skills to give voice to those who cannot talk. 

 

Speaking animatedly and with conviction, it is clear that animal welfare and the plight of wildlife are global issues that Professor Wee cares strongly about. Before term started, he made a deputation to the Legislative Council ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), advocating an all-out ban on ivory sales locally. He expressed his hope for more members of the public to get involved by writing to the Legislative Council to support the ban and reject outright any compensation. Back in University, Professor Wee organised with like-minded individuals a screening of The Ivory Game, a 2016 American documentary film that examines the ivory trade and puts a spotlight on devoted individuals who have made saving the African elephant their life's work. 

Professor Wee himself had a few stories to share of local heroes who have dedicated themselves to helping animals. The first he mentioned was Madam Chan Lai-Ching. Soon after Professor Wee and his wife adopted Ruby and Lily from Hong Kong Dog Rescue, Professor Wee got a call from Linda who runs Linda Cat and Dog House. She told him that Madam Chan was dying of cancer, so could no longer provide for some 60 animals under her care. Professor Wee spoke of Madam Chan with great respect, “When I stepped into the shelter, I realised just how much one person can do to help”. He added that she lost $4 million dollars from closing her ivory business after she found out blood ivory was making its way into her shop. "To start afresh as a flower vendor was a brave move even if she thought it was the conscionable thing to do, especially since she was a single mom caring for a mentally challenged child." 

This event became the first of many rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming operations Professor Wee has taken part in. Today, seven dogs who are not suitable for adoption share his apartment. Over the years, he and his wife have helped 150 furry children one way or another and recently helped raise $100,000 to renovate Madam Fong's shelter in Sheung Shui. Humbly speaking about his involvement, Professor Wee explained: "We are just doing whatever we can; suffering is just not acceptable.” To take the focus away from himself, he redirects the conversation and peppers it with stories about inspiring individuals like the husband-wife duo who rescues animals in their spare time: Moses a winchman from the Government Flying Service and Queeny a nurse. They are "heroes by day and superheroes by night". 

Often encouraging his students to improvise, Professor Wee has made good use of his inventiveness in rescues. When asked how he prepares for rescues, he replied: "You just use what you have, like a towel to wrap a frightened cat. It's important to stay alert and think quick on your feet, like the time Siu Lan delivered a litter of puppies, I stepped in to tear open the amniotic sac when I realised she overlooked the puppy and it could suffocate.  

Professor Wee, unbothered by the many scars from rescue operations, has rehabilitated and advocated the protection of many animals, whether they are chained to an abandoned local carwash or cowering from a storm under a highway, whether fending for themselves in the mountains or living in danger in sub-Saharan Africa. Professor Wee has faced trying conditions as well as happy events, there's certainly never a dull moment. Professor Wee said recently he has been 'toning down' with rescues because he’s drawn out. However, with his view that one has to help when given the opportunity, he hopes others will step forward and understand too that animals are sentient: they suffer the same way we do.