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Universities in Hong Kong

What Charles Kao could teach Hong Kong university heads today about free speech and freedom of expression

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 5:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 5:33am

I refer to the article, “Prominent Hong Kong environmentalist remembers vision and magnanimity of late Charles Kao, father of fibre optics” (September 29).

Undeniably, Nobel laureate Charles Kao Kuen was a phenomenally innovative and visionary personality. When he first advanced the theory that glass fibres could be the basis for high-speed data transmission, he was thought to be on a fool’s errand – until fibre optic cables became popular.

More to his credit, during his term as vice-chancellor of Chinese University, he allowed students to express their opinions freely, which was a breakthrough in the conservative society of the time.

When then university student Lo Sze-ping spearheaded a protest at an open-day ceremony on campus in 1993, Kao did not heed calls to expel him, citing the students’ freedom to express their views. Today, Lo has become a famous environmentalist and is currently the chief executive officer of WWF-China.

Why it took three decades to recognise genius of ‘father of fibre optics’

Kao recognised that students should not be suppressed on their path to self-realisation. The presidents of Hong Kong’s universities could follow the example set by Kao on freedom of expression and allowing space for independent thought. Although Hong Kong has changed politically and socially, students’ journey towards becoming their own person remains the same.

Terry Li, Tsuen Wan