It has been observed that Hong Kong has become what Taiwan was in the 1990s, where one could not buy an egg without the incident being politicised. Over the appointment of Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council, rational debate has given way to political grandstanding, conspiracy theories and covert audio recordings, all very unbecoming of an institution of higher learning.

The first such educational facility in China was founded more than 3,000 years ago, in the early years of the Western Zhou dynasty (1046- 771BC). The king had a large compound built in the suburbs of the royal capital (near present-day Xian), where the children of aristocrats, after they had completed their elementary education, learnt the Six Arts. In “ritual” class, they learnt political theory and ethics while their music instructors taught them songs, music and dance. Archery and chariot classes prepared them for the battlefield while writing and mathematics equipped them for their future roles as administrators.

By the Eastern Zhou dynasty (770-255BC), momentous changes in social order and attitudes meant higher learning was no longer confined to the upper classes; commoners could get an education and better themselves socially. The idea of a “national university” training talented men as mandarins persisted until 1904, when the Qing dynasty abolished the Guozijian (“school for the sons of the state”) and set up a modern education ministry.