• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 12:44pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 5:08am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 5:08am

Support for Occupy Central should not trouble head of University of Hong Kong

Since when does supporting Occupy Central become a criterion for being a good head of a Hong Kong university?

Professor Peter Mathieson, the new vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, has been asked time and again by students and reporters about his stances on various political hot potatoes such as the civil disobedience movement.

"I support students' right to peaceful protest," Mathieson said yesterday, his first day on the job. "I support free speech and I'll stand up for those core values. The university will help any student who happens to participate in or get into any trouble in Occupy Central, but always within the boundaries and respect of the law."

The question I want to ask is: if some HKU students oppose Occupy Central, would the professor support them too? My suspicion is that he would say yes as well because it's a free city and a free campus. In that case, his "support" is really beside the point. Don't get me wrong, I am not criticising the good don, but rather the self-righteous people who demand he gives what they consider the right or politically correct answer. Many reasonable people disagree over whether Occupy Central is justified or not. Why should HKU take a stance on this or other controversial issues?

In the name of free speech and democracy, some student activists have been forcing their university elders to share their views and support their actions. They have already forced into early retirement Mathieson's predecessor, distinguished scientist and gentleman Tsui Lap-chee, over the latter's supposed mishandling of a campus visit by Premier Li Keqiang in 2011.

Most university students are young adults. They are free to join any civil disobedience movement they choose - or not. They can entertain any political or religious beliefs they want. That's their choice and theirs alone. But university officials have no obligation to support them one way or another any more than they should support students to take a vacation in Bali rather than Taipei.

Perhaps Mathieson meant nothing more than that any HKU student who gets into trouble during a vacation or a protest could expect help from the university.


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This article is now closed to comments

Matheson supports the right to protest. By definition, he would support students who protest against Occupy, since...well...that would be a protest. I'm not sure there's anything to get bent out of shape about here.
In his role as head of HKU, his response is perfectly appropriate and legitimate. Now, people might be curious about his personal view, but that would be irrelevant, and not anybody's business.
It must be said that some CCP apologists appear to possess passable ability in English, although clearly not sufficient ability to realize that ridiculous generalizations like "English speaking people can't think" besmirches them as well.
It is endearing that some can at least recognize the value of the scientific method, but even then, when the rubber meets the road, past behaviour would suggest that their faith in the CCP tends to hold sway. The heart wants what it wants, as they say.
whymak, on the "English-speaking people can't think!" sentiment (above) that you feel you share with pslhk: was this developed from the teaching experience you mentioned? I ask because it's breathtakingly general, and so wondered about the base of experience from which you (and/or pslhk) draw this conclusion. Also kinda curious that, if you/pslhk feel this way, why do you read and frequently comment on articles posted on an English language news site?
Are university students necessarily adults? I doubt so. It is curious that only university students during the gap years between secondary school and working in an office protest. They don't do it before or after. I think it is more their PERCEPTION that now that they have finished school they are adults. Later on when they are really adults working in offices, they keep quiet.
I didn't know student sit-ins partly caused the US to pull out of Vietnam. Maybe the peoples of the Middle East should do this to repel US soldiers from invading?
Please allow me to have a little fun with brain damaged Hong Kongers, who are totally sold on God of Abraham and Democracy Cult's "universal" values.
When people argue that facts, scientific method and empirics must yield to their extreme emotions of faith, Democracy and Occupy Central, there is little room for rational debate.
For your information, I read Einstein (with German version next to English translation because I am no longer fluent in the former) and Maxwell's original papers and enjoy them just as much as I enjoy Tang poems and Jin Yong kung fu romance novels. Yes, I had read tons of Shakespeare, Pope, Dickens and Keats. Do I sound like an anti-Anglo to you?
You too, must differentiate between words invested in hate passions and truth couched in humor to attenuate -- short of potential violence -- the destructive effects of nihilism and anarchy.
My response to reader "pslhk" is appropriate insofar as some SCMP readers are concerned. I think he too is having a little fun at the expense of the brainwashed.
Is Mathieson an opportunist, a pseudo intellectual or a blockhead? Perhaps a bit of everything.

Beyond the question of rights -- entitlements with or without responsibilities, what about the actions taken by individuals in exercising their rights, and the consequences of clashing actions?

Let me be a little more specific. I taught in America eons ago. When an Orthodox Jewish student couldn't show up for an exam during Yom Kippur, I was required by law to give him a make-up. I had no problem with that because this is the law and who am I to say that it's not just. But it's not fair for me to spend extra time to prepare another set of questions, or for the other students because they have less time to prepare for the same summer course final.

Were I a professor at HKU, I would not be obliged to give demonstrating students any special consideration. The issue is not about ideology. I am just exercising my rights as a teacher who doesn’t want extra work. Too bad a student’s action – observation of his ideology – conflicts with my rights.

That’s why we need rules and laws. Now, someone says it’s okay to break some rules. Breaking one rule leads to another. If an employee goes AWOL with Occupy Central, who’s to say his boss doesn’t have the right to fire him?

Just remember, it’s not just freedom. Rights, actions and consequences come bundled. Mr. Mathieson political posturing gives me the impression that he’s neither scholar nor intellectual.
Seriously?!? The "slippery slope" song and dance? Where is the slippery slope? What constitutes it, in the case of Occupy?
Of course there are consequences, as there should be. If you miss an exam to protest, that's on you. If you miss work to protest, then that's potentially grounds for dismissal. Your "argument" is a complete non-entity.
Hahahahaha! Sorry pslhk but I suspect the irony of your post is not deliberate (when you refer to English speaking windbags). Hahahahaha!
‘In the name of free speech and democracy, some student activists have been forcing their university elders to share their views and support their actions. They have already forced into early retirement Mathieson's predecessor, distinguished scientist and gentleman Tsui Lap-chee, over the latter's supposed mishandling of a campus visit by Premier Li Keqiang in 2011.’
I have no problem with that. University students are not kids. They are mature adults as they should be. US pulled out of Vietnam in part by the sit-ins by university students at classrooms and even university’s president office. The HKU current Vice Chancellor is very much part of that generation in particular. He knows what universities should do for their students in our post-Vietnam time.
It's much worse than that. Like you always say, English speaking people can't think!
I just posted a short comment after yours. But I doubt if hate-China SCMP readers understand reason and logic, a la Socratic dialogue. Thank Heavens I never had brain damaged folks like them in my classroom.




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