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Contributions to the World:The 2020 Tang Prizes

2020-11-20
Esther Tseng /photo byTang Prize Foundation /tr. byJR Lee
 
(courtesy of the Tang Prize Foundation)
(courtesy of the Tang Prize Foundation)
 
The global spread of Covid-19 in 2020 has severely impacted global economic development and human security. However, in our currently tumultu­ous world, the announcement of the 4th Tang Prizes is encouraging news, especially as the Tang Prize in Rule of Law was for the first time awarded to three non-governmental organizations, based in Bangladesh, Lebanon, and Colombia. With the pandemic continuing to pose a serious threat, the award money and affirmation provided by the Tang Prizes has come at just the right moment. There is further hope yet for the treatment of patients with severe cases of Covid-19 as the three Tang Prize laure­ates in Biopharmaceutical Science continue their research on inflammatory diseases.
Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin founded the Tang Prizes in 2012, with four awards given out bi­enni­ally in the fields of Sustainable Development, Bio­pharma­ceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. Each ­category receives a cash prize of NT$40 million.
The 4th Tang Prize in Sustainable Development was awarded to primatologist Jane Goodall in recognition of her 60 years working for the conservation of the Earth’s environment. The Tang Prize in Biopharma­ceutical Science went to scientists Charles Dinarello, Marc Feldmann, and Tadamitsu Kishimoto for their contribution to the development of cytokine-targeting bio­logical therapies for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. Renowned historian Wang Gungwu was awarded the Tang Prize in Sinology for his groundbreaking insights which have enriched the explanation of Chinese people’s changing place in the world.
 
Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking research in primatology redefined the relationship between humans and animals. (courtesy of Michael Neugebauer)
Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking research in primatology redefined the relationship between humans and animals. (courtesy of Michael Neugebauer)
 
Reforming society through law and knowledge

This year, for the first time, three grassroots non-profit organizations received the Tang Prize.
Established in 1992, the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association took an innovative approach to the Bangladeshi constitution that enabled them to form a link between environ­mental pollution and the wellbeing of the nation’s people. In doing so, BELA achieved an important breakthrough regarding the past interpretation of litigation in Bangladeshi courts. Ever since its first successful public-interest case in 1994, BELA has initiated more than 300 pieces of public-interest environmental litigation as well as various other legislative reforms.
Founded in 2005 and based in Colombia, Dejusticia: The Center for Law, Justice and Society firmly believes that academic research can substantively contribute to social justice and lead to social reform. In 2018, Dejusticia won a lawsuit calling on the Colombian government to protect and conserve the ­Amazon, marking the first such verdict in Latin America. 
The third recipient of the prize was The Legal Agenda, from Lebanon. Established in 2009, the organization has fought for major legal rulings to protect the rights of migrant workers, refu­gees, LGBT groups, and others. The Legal Agenda is not only a pioneer in advocating for such rights, it is also constantly seeking to expand awareness of these topics to other Arab countries, and has set up a branch in Tunisia.
Tang Prize Foundation CEO Chern Jenn-chuan notes that with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, many NGOs are facing financial difficulties, especially as they receive less in donations than before. The award money from the Tang Prize seeks not only to show concern for these countries, but also to become a force that encourages NGOs on the front lines to keep pushing forward.
 
Jane Goodall’s wildlife conservation achievements were showcased in an exhibit outside the Tang Prize Masters’ Forum for Sustainable Development at National Tsing Hua University. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)
Jane Goodall’s wildlife conservation achievements were showcased in an exhibit outside the Tang Prize Masters’ Forum for Sustainable Development at National Tsing Hua University. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)

Action for environmental protection

Due to the pandemic, laureates were unable to come to Taiwan to receive their awards. The Tang Prize Foundation held Masters’ Forums at National Taiwan University, National Tsing Hua University, National Cheng Kung University, and National Chengchi University on September 21 and 22. The forums, livestreamed online, invited previous and current laureates to come together to discuss innovative thoughts on ecological con­serva­tion, human rights, and environmental justice, as well as the possibility for change in these fields.
Dr. Jane Goodall, who has visited Taiwan 18 times, joined remotely from her home in England. She stated that the spread of Covid-19 is due to humans dis­respect­ing animals and nature. Goodall’s groundbreaking research in primatology redefined the relationship between humans and animals.
Having set up sanctuaries for chimpanzees, she knew that actions were better than words, and shifted her role from that of purely a scientist to that of an activ­ist. In 1977, she founded the international Jane Goodall Institute. In 1991, she also founded Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Program, to promote global wildlife conservation and environmental education.
Jane Goodall, 86, says, “My job is to give people hope.” Her active involvement in environmental con­serva­tion has indeed brought brighter hope to our planet.
 
Biopharmaceutical Science laureates Dr.Marc Feldmann, Dr.Charles Dinarello, and Dr.Tadamitsu Kishimoto have made significant contributions to their field through their research on cytokine-targeting biological therapies to combat inflammatory diseases.
Biopharmaceutical Science laureates Dr.Marc Feldmann, Dr.Charles Dinarello, and Dr.Tadamitsu Kishimoto have made significant contributions to their field through their research on cytokine-targeting biological therapies to combat inflammatory diseases.
 
Innovative inflammatory disease research

When University of Colorado professor Dr. Charles Dinarello, University of Oxford professor Dr. Marc Feldmann, and former Osaka University president Dr. Tadamitsu Kishimoto learned that they had received the Tang Prize, they were delighted. Each had independently discovered cytokines (IL-1, TNF, IL-6) critically involved in the pathogenesis of various autoimmune diseases. Cyto­kines are a cornerstone in medication for rheuma­toid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and other auto­immune diseases, benefiting thousands of patients suffering from autoimmune or inflammatory diseases.
The three laureates attended the Masters’ Forum at National Cheng Kung University online via inter­national connections. They shared the history of scient­ists who have searched for the mechanisms behind autoimmune diseases. They also expressed hopes of finding effective therapies for curbing the inflammatory reaction that causes “cytokine storms” in the bodies of patients with severe Covid-19.
 
Tang Prize Foundation CEO Chern Jenn-Chuan views the Tang Prizes as a way to contribute to the world, and help Taiwan gain global recognition. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)
Tang Prize Foundation CEO Chern Jenn-Chuan views the Tang Prizes as a way to contribute to the world, and help Taiwan gain global recognition. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)
 
In a videoconference at the Tang Prize Masters’ Forum for Sinology, hosted by National Chengchi University, Wang Gungwu noted that the diversity of the field of Sinology is facing new challenges. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)
In a videoconference at the Tang Prize Masters’ Forum for Sinology, hosted by National Chengchi University, Wang Gungwu noted that the diversity of the field of Sinology is facing new challenges. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)
 
Looking at the present through the past

The winner of the Tang Prize in Sinology, historian Wang Gungwu, is a scholar on Sino‡Southeast-Asian relations who developed an original approach to under­standing China by scrutinizing its complex relations with its neighbors to the south. Whereas views on China have traditionally been developed from an in­ternal perspective or from that of the Western world, he has taken a more comprehensive approach to his view of the world order. He currently plays a leading role in fields concerning overseas Chinese.
Wang Gungwu was born in Surabaya in the Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia) in 1930 to ethnic Chinese parents. He went to England for postgraduate studies and his later academic career brought him to Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, the US, and Hong Kong, where he was president of the University of Hong Kong for nine years. The Tang Prize Selection Committee noted that Wang, with his multicultural upbringing, can look at both Chinese Confucian culture and British academic tradition as an insider, while also being able to view China as an outsider.
In addition to the prize money, the Tang Prize bestows upon each laureate a research grant of NT$10 million so that they may use their influence to further aca­demic, scient­ific and technological exchange. Dr. Chern Jenn-­chuan notes that Gro Harlem Brundtland, recipient of the first Tang Prize in Sustainable Develop­ment, used her award for elephant conservation in Kenya, green hydro­electric energy, and improving the standards of public health research among female scient­ists in developing countries. Sinology laureate Yu Ying-shih established the Yu Ying-shih Fellowship for the Humanities, a scholarship for young Taiwanese researchers. Rule of Law laureate Albie Sachs created a trust to chronicle South Africa’s post-apartheid constitutional reform through stories such as the conversion of a former prison into the country’s constitutional court.
Amid international alarm and turmoil, the efforts the laureates are taking in leading sustainable development in new directions to build a new world order are all the more striking. This is the spirit of the Tang Prizes: to pursue the finest virtues for the betterment of all.
 
At the Tang Prize Masters’ Forum for Rule of Law at National Taiwan University, current and previous laureates, as well as local NGOs and social initiative representatives based in Taiwan, were invited to discuss the role of NGOs in civil society.
At the Tang Prize Masters’ Forum for Rule of Law at National Taiwan University, current and previous laureates, as well as local NGOs and social initiative representatives based in Taiwan, were invited to discuss the role of NGOs in civil society.
 
Gro Harlem Brundtland, recipient of the first Tang Prize in Sustainable Development, used her award money to fund elephant conservation in Kenya. The elephant herds had had to switch to nocturnal activity out of fear of poachers, but they can now live in harmony with humans. (courtesy of the Milgis Trust)
Gro Harlem Brundtland, recipient of the first Tang Prize in Sustainable Development, used her award money to fund elephant conservation in Kenya. The elephant herds had had to switch to nocturnal activity out of fear of poachers, but they can now live in harmony with humans. (courtesy of the Milgis Trust) 
 
Retrieve from Taiwan Panorama
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