• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 3:06am
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


Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.

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

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.
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.
What you said today is very fair.
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.
“student activists have been forcing their university elders
to share their views and support their actions”
sounds like HK’s modern version of cultural revolution
US students’ anti-war campaigns in the 60s were clear and practical
HK students’ anti-N campaigns are neither here nor there
for purposes encapsulated in slogans which they mouth
without any realistic understanding in context nor purpose
categorically scholarism standard
In his parting shot
former VC Tsui fairly commented on HKU’s performance in the league table
saying that it’d depend on overall student quality
we can see that clearly demonstrated in the recent publicity
of a HKU alum’s complaint against Putonghua in canteen
If HKU worldview is represented by the mentality of this HKU graduate
a GRADUATE, one with 3 or 4 years education at the institution:
“a college canteen is disrespectful of locals
if it doesn’t provide service in the local language”
Quite a revolutionary and impressive development
of this colonial institution that began as a manufacturer of bureaucrats
that are more at home speaking Chingish than Cantonese
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.
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?
I can’t speak for whymak
who is a gem in this forum
that will lose much luster
without his comments
English-speaking windbags are a general observation
Anyone who has never been entertained by the “eloquence”
of unemployed or unemployable graduates
with qualifications in say journalism or business
bigger-than-life scholarism-like commentators
who know too much of nothing
mistaking that nonsense would become wisdom
if spoken in English and vacuous slogans
may not appreciate the parody
english-speaking ability like useless college qualification
is these “learned” windbags’ self-deceiving tools
that inhibits their mental development
IJS, of course, we never mean to generalize
Some journalism and business graduate are very good and productive
The observation only applies to what’s clearly the case
Taking irrelevant Mo or local Fan as examples,
would anyone find them in the same category of Alex Lo?
Not even anywhere near.
Hahahahaha! Sorry pslhk but I suspect the irony of your post is not deliberate (when you refer to English speaking windbags). Hahahahaha!




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