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Obituary for Dr. Norman John Miners

Posted On: 2020-05-12

 Obituary for Dr. Norman John Miners

1931-2020 (aged 88)

            On April 30th 2020 Dr. Norman Miners passed away peacefully in his sleep in his London home where he had retired from Hong Kong in 1995. He arrived at the University of Hong Kong in 1969 to take a position as lecturer in the Department of Political Science (later renamed as Department of Politics and Public Administration). He became Reader in 1988 and then Head of Department until his retirement.

Dr Miners received a first class degree in Literae Humaniores from Corpus Christi, Oxford, in 1956 and his Doctorate from Exeter University in 1969.  Before attending university, he was commissioned as an officer in the British Army. After Oxford he worked in Nigeria as Education Officer and later as Acting Principal of the Federal Government College, Warri. 

Dr. Miners was, without question, a true academic in every sense of the word. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of any matters pertaining to Hong Kong, the history, institutions and processes by which Hong Kong was governed. His most famous and seminal work The Government and Politics of Hong Kong in 1975, which went into five editions by 1995, was read by every student, scholar, and government official who needed to study Hong Kong government and politics. He also published Nigerian Army 1955-1966 and Hong Kong under Imperial Rule 1912-1941.

Dr. Miners was a fine and meticulous scholar. One interesting story was when his publisher reflected that Dr Miners was the only person he had ever known who, when he submitted his works for publication, did not need to have a single syllable or punctuation mark changed as his writing was perfect. This was, no doubt, attributable to his rigorous classical education.

Dr Miners was an assiduous supervisor of many Masters and Doctoral degrees and students had much reason to be grateful to him for the avuncular way in which he supervised their dissertations. In his relationships with other members of staff, he was invariably courteous and friendly, and would willingly share his work with others.

On his retirement, Dr Miners travelled widely and, as had been his wont in Hong Kong, went swimming to the last as his daily exercise.

He will be sadly missed by his colleagues at the University, most of whom have now retired. The following are some of the remarks about Norman from his colleagues:

“His books on Hong Kong politics and history are classics and provide description and analysis of one late colonial outpost. The books have stood the test of time for those interested in the period.” (Professor John Burns).

“Behind his shyness, Norman displayed an extraordinary readiness to help others in ways big and small. One day I went into his office to ask if he would be willing to give me some tuition on classical Greek. He replied within a second, ‘Yes,’ and then said, ‘When do you want to start?’” (Professor Joseph Chan)

Absolute integrity and fairness of mind. Modest in his habits and entirely lacking vanity or pretension. Committed to anyone for whose education he was responsible and willing to work whatever hours were needed to do his duty.” (Dr. Stephen Davies)

“He was probably the greatest expert on Hong Kong’s history and politics and wrote the seminal text on Hong Kong’s political system along with many other major works. He was held in very high regard by many people and that includes all his many students whom he educated at the University.” (Mr. Elfed Roberts)

“Norman was a shy and self-effacing man but he had a very warm heart. He will be affectionately remembered and sadly missed by a generation of former staff and students. Scholars will be continuingly grateful for the enormous contribution that he has made to Hong Kong studies.” (Professor Ian Scott)

“He had a booming voice and walked like a military commander which could be intimidating for the undergrad students but we soon found out that he could be rather shy and was kind-hearted. He was helpful to his students if you were bold enough to knock on his office door.” (Professor James Tang)

“Among his endearing features were a loud voice down the corridor, eloquent contributions to Departmental discussions invariably with eyes closed in thought, and purposeful striding between Middleton Towers and the University.” (Professor Ian Thynne)

Dr. Miners is survived by his wife Wilma, who is living in Caernarfon, North Wales, and his two sons William and Deio and his four grandchildren. Anyone who wants to get in touch with his family can do so by emailing

Department of Politics and Public Administration, The University of Hong Kong