Chinese University of Hong Kong students question choice of next vice-chancellor

Some consultation session attendees fear Professor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi will not be able to defend school’s autonomy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 9:12am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 9:12am

Students at Hong Kong’s second oldest university have expressed concern that the professor recommended to lead it for the next five years will not be able to protect its institutional autonomy.

In a consultation session on Thursday with students, which was marred by a protest by an attendee, Professor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi – the candidate for Chinese University’s next vice-chancellor – discussed issues of governance and student activism with participants.

Undergraduate Horace Hung Ho-ming told the Post after the meeting that he felt Tuan was not qualified for the role.

“For example, when we asked him about the automatic appointment of the city’s chief executive as the chancellor of public universities, he did not seem to know much about the situation in Chinese University or Hong Kong, and talked mainly about what it is like in the US,” Hung said.

The student also criticised Tuan for beating around the bush on sensitive topics.

“When we asked him about whether the school would help students who were caught while participating in social movements, he merely said something like the school would monitor the situation and act as a point of contact,” Hung said.

“There is a danger in whether he could defend Chinese University’s autonomy and interests and protect the school from political suppression.”

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During the meeting, the vice-chancellor candidate stressed that he supported freedom of speech and institutional autonomy, but they had to be expressed in a legal manner.

Tuan, a renowned biotechnology scientist, also hit back at widespread criticism about his lack of administrative experience and familiarity with Chinese University, saying he was confident in taking on the role.

“Based on my record, I’m reasonably certain, 99, 95 per cent certain that I will succeed,” he said.

Based on my record, I’m reasonably certain, 99, 95 per cent certain that I will succeed.
Professor Rocky Tuan, CUHK vice-chancellor candidate

Tuan also urged the students to “take a chance” on him and confidently declared: “I will do my best.”

During the meeting, a student held a banner claiming that the consultation was a “fake” one.

“There are not even 30 students here,” he said, urging the council to postpone the decision-making process to September so as to have a real consultation with students.

Another student criticised how the consultation was done in a “hasty” manner, adding that July was a time when students might be on internship programmes or abroad for vacations.

Another two consultation sessions will be held with staff and alumni respectively in the next two days. According to the university, views gathered will be reported to its governing council before a decision is made in the week of July 24.

Last month, the scientist was unanimously recommended by a search and selection committee to succeed Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu next year.

Born in Hong Kong and educated in the United States, Tuan is currently working at the University of Pittsburgh as director of the institution’s cellular and molecular engineering lab.