Students will "waste four years in college" if they fail to take part in social movements and keep quiet about controversial issues, the new president of a management school says.
Professor Simon Ho Shun-man, who took over as head of the Hang Seng Management College in March, said the college would offer practical help to any students arrested for taking part in civil disobedience as part of Occupy Central, although he did not rule out disciplinary consequences.
He recalled joining protests for better education policies while studying from 1970 to 1974, and later as a teacher. And he urged students to do the same.
"I took part in social movements when I was a student and I now also encourage my students to take part," said Ho.
"If they don't participate and give their voices, I think it will be a waste of their four years in the college."
Ho urged students to think for themselves about issues, rather than following family or peers. He said students should consider both sides of every argument.
"Bear in mind that there are many things that require compromise," Ho said. "I'm not encouraging them to act radically, although they have the right to do so … If they insist on doing something even after they know it's illegal, they need to know very clearly their reasons and be willing to take responsibility."
That is reflected in Ho's views on Occupy's plan to block streets if the government fails to come up with a model for the 2017 chief executive election that meets international standards.
The college might put arrested students in touch with lawyers or relatives, or offer counselling, he said. But disciplinary action is possible against those who broke the law.
"Of course we will help them," he said. "We will do what we can to provide the help they need. They are our students."
Despite warnings from the government and industry that Occupy will damage the economy, Ho believes its impact will not be severe.
Ho is leading the college's attempt to become a private university.
He expects the Sha Tin-based college to receive approval to accredit its own programmes in 2016, then to begin applying to the Executive Council for university status later that year or in 2017.
Ho is a member of the Henan provincial Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the nation's top political advisory body.
His mainland political role raised eyebrows when his appointment was announced.
However, the academic, who previously worked as vice-rector at the University of Macau and as dean of business at Baptist University, says his position affords him the chance to influence young people on the mainland.
He said he was nominated to the CPPCC by colleagues at Henan University, where he serves as an honorary professor.
"I think [being a member] is good because we can't separate from China," he said. "Every time I attend activities, I hope I can change some of their values by spreading Hong Kong's ways of doing things."