I'll defend academic freedom to the end, vows HKU chief
The new vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong yesterday pledged to defend academic freedom 'to the end' and said he supported the right of students to take part in lawful protests and demonstrations.
Professor Tsui Lap-chee, appointed vice-chancellor yesterday by the university's council, said academic freedom was an important principle that he will defend as the university's head.
He was chosen from more than 1,500 candidates in a global head-hunt which started 20 months ago after the resignation of former vice-chancellor Professor Cheng Yiu-chung. Professor Cheng was alleged to have tried to stop Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu's research group at the university from conducting polls on the popularity of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.
'As an academic, I know well the importance of academic freedom, such as the freedom of publishing one's research output,' Professor Tsui said.
Asked how he would handle incidents similar to the Robert Chung affair, he said: 'If I receive complaints on infringement of academic freedom, I will make inquiries directly on what has happened. I will make the decision after consulting my colleagues. But I believe that a similar incident will not happen again.'
Professor Tsui, one of the world's leading geneticists, is head of the genetics and genomic biology programme at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children's research institute.
University pro-vice-chancellor Professor Cheng Kai-ming said Professor Tsui had a 'mild' character which could help him cope with the political pressures of his post.
Professor Tsui said he supported students' participation in social affairs, including protests and demonstrations.
'Caring about what happens in society can foster their all-round development,' he said. But he said that students' participation should be carried out in accordance with the law.
He said certain disciplines at the university were world-class but he would strive to put the entire institution in the same league as universities such as Harvard and Oxford.