Universities in Hong Kong

New Chinese University of Hong Kong chief denies coming under any pressure from Beijing officials

Rocky Tuan Sung-chi says recent meeting with central government’s liaison office was part of efforts to communicate with all stakeholders in society

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 11:22pm

The new head of the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday insisted he had come under no pressure from central government officials following a recent meeting with Beijing’s liaison office.

Rocky Tuan Sung-chi said he had only had one encounter with the body that represents the Chinese government in Hong Kong since taking up the posts of vice chancellor and president at the start of the year.

“Under no circumstances has any pressure been applied to the university, in terms of policy, or education strategy, or similar things,” Tuan said. “So far, nothing.”

Tuan’s firm denial comes after former University of Hong Kong chief Peter Mathieson told the Post in January before leaving his position that on a few occasions the liaison office had given him advice.

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That came amid a backdrop of growing fear in Hong Kong about government influence in academia.

But Tuan on Tuesday said he would continue to communicate with all stakeholders in Hong Kong society, and that included the liaison office.

The new vice chancellor also said the political atmosphere in Hong Kong today was very different to that of the 1960s, when he left the city for the United States, where he has spent much of his career. But he said he was not particularly concerned about politics.

Tuan reiterated that university students should exercise their freedom of speech in a rational and peaceful manner. The hanging of banners on campuses last year advocating Hong Kong breaking away from Chinese rule sparked a citywide debate about freedom of expression.

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“The university … is not a place for political contests,” he said.

Advocating Hong Kong independence was against the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, he added.

On student affairs, Tuan said most were concerned with “practical things” at the university such as availability of accommodation and dining facilities.

He said the university was applying for funding from the government to build six new student hostels on campus, which would provide 1,800 beds.

It was also planning to introduce courses in positive psychology, Tuan said, but these would not be compulsory.

Meanwhile, a new medical centre was on track to open in 2020 with a “smart design”, the vice chancellor said.

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The facility, the city’s first private training hospital, is currently under construction near University MTR station in Sha Tin.

Tuan said the HK$6.3 billion project was progressing well, and he hoped construction work would finish within the next year.

“The CUHK Medical Centre will be developed as Hong Kong’s first fully electronic, smart hospital, using advanced information technology to enhance treatment effectiveness and hospital efficiency,” he said.

Fung Hong, the centre’s chief executive officer, said it would be a “smart hospital” with about 600 beds.

The centre could be the first in the city to go “paperless”, using only electronic medical records, Fung added.

It would use mobile applications to help patients, and the incorporation of designs using the internet of things would lower treatment costs, he said.

The medical centre is being co-funded by the government, the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the university.

Tuan said the university would keep up its research efforts in biomedical science and artificial intelligence.

Hong Kong finance minister Paul Chan Mo-po announced in his annual budget last week that HK$10 billion would be reserved for research on health care and artificial intelligence technologies.

Tuan, a biomedical scientist, said the university had an advantage in this field and would push for studies in translational medicine such as stem cell technology and regenerative medicine.