Doc honoured for helping to fight blindness in China

SINGAPORE - A Singapore doctor whose efforts helped nearly 500,000 eye patients in China beat blindness has been honoured by a body set up to boost Singapore-China ties.

Professor Arthur Lim's keen philanthropic contributions won him the Excellence Award at the Business China Awards on Wednesday.

Prof Lim, 78, has been working to eradicate cataract blindness in China since 1986.

Back then, China had about four million people with cataract problems and faced a lack of doctors to perform the operations.

But under Prof Lim's leadership, more than 5,000 local specialists were trained in 10 eye centres, which he helped establish across the country. This helped nearly half a million eye patients.

By personally performing pro bono surgery and donating generously to the eye centres in China, he has enhanced relations between Singapore and China, the award organisers said on Wednesday.

Prof Lim was also given the Friendship Award in 1996 by the Chinese government. It is the highest award that can be bestowed on a foreign national.

At the awards ceremony at Resorts World Sentosa Convention Centre, where former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was guest of honour, the Enterprise Award was also given to CapitaLand Group, which has developed more than 120 projects in 40 Chinese cities.

The Young Achiever Award went to Dr Loh Cheng, 37. He moved with his family to Yunnan 41/2 years ago to offer medical education and clinical services to the underprivileged.

He connected international humanitarian groups with the local Chinese authorities to ensure that international aid was given directly to those who needed it most.

Dr Loh said he was inspired by a desire to give back to society and to gain new experience, as well as a mentor who had done similar work in China.

"I wanted to do something that was meaningful... Having a small part in the education of physicians in Yunnan was also why I decided to make the move," he said. "It might not be everyone's cup of tea but if you have the necessary support from friends and family, it can be a very enriching experience in the non-material sense."

Business China is a networking group launched in 2007 by Mr Lee and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to boost interaction between the two countries. Its awards recognise businessmen, entrepreneurs, professionals, organisations and enterprises for their successful contributions in strengthening Singapore-China relations.

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