Strict but tolerant action mooted on sex survey

Chinese University should be 'strict' but 'tolerant' over the publication of sex columns by a student journal, the university's head said last night. But any action should wait until legal proceedings had finished, vice-chancellor Lawrence Lau Juen-yee said.

'We should differentiate right from wrong,' he told Cable TV after a university council meeting. 'We should be strict over this case, but could be tolerant to people. This is my personal opinion. We educators cannot live without knowing how to differentiate right and wrong.'

Professor Lau's remarks led a student leader to say he did not seem to know what was going on.

CU Student Press has become the centre of a row over freedom of speech and community standards after it published a survey that asked students questions about sexual fantasies involving incest and bestiality.

Two issues of the journal were classified as indecent by the Obscene Articles Tribunal but the journal's editorial board has appealed against the ruling. An open hearing is expected to be held soon.

A spokeswoman for the editorial board said last night she could not understand Professor Lau's and the council's latest stance. She reiterated that the university should not make judgments based on trends of public opinion and the tribunal's 'unreasonable' classification of some issues of the journal.

'We cannot interpret what the comment [Professor Lau made] implies,' board member Ada Lee Nga-chong said. 'We agree a university is a place to discriminate right from wrong. But the university should not be influenced by the unreasonable and suspicious judgment [from the tribunal] in how it treats its students.'

Ms Lee said the university's position whether or not to adopt punitive measures had been vague, adding Professor Lau had never met board members in person. 'In an earlier letter they said they were considering ways they would adopt to punish us. But then they undid what they said' after the board met pro-vice-chancellor Jack Cheng Chun-yiu, she said.

Federation of Students secretary-general Li Yiu-kee said Professor Lau did not know what he was talking about. 'He has no clue what is going on. He was just speaking in a bureaucratic tone. The point is how he defines right and wrong. The university has never made itself clear.'