Universities in Hong Kong

No place for disruptive political protests at Chinese University, new president says

Rocky Tuan opens lines of communications with student leaders but emphasises political boundaries that must not be crossed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 April, 2018, 9:33am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 April, 2018, 2:17pm

The president of the second oldest university in Hong Kong has once again stressed that the campus is a place for academia and knowledge, not one for political wrestling. 

In a wide-ranging interview, the first since his new appointment, Dr Rocky Tuan Sung-chi, Chinese University’s vice chancellor and president, said that while freedom of expression is a cornerstone for the institution, there is a bottom line for all students and staff taking part in politics. 

“We have to do it in a peaceful, rational, and mutually respectful [manner],” he said.  

We have to do it in a peaceful, rational, and mutually respectful [manner]
Dr Rocky Tuan Sung-chi

In September, Chinese University was the main battleground of a renewed independence movement in the city, after banners and posters supporting the idea of Hong Kong breaking away from China appeared on campus. 

The identity of those responsible for posting the materials was unclear, but the university’s student union vowed to keep them up to protect free speech.

Several weeks later, former president Joseph Sung Jao-yiu led nine other tertiary institutions to release a joint statement saying they did not support Hong Kong independence, and condemning abuses of freedom of expression.

In January, a student society for discussing the city’s breakaway from China was set up and is on a trial period. 

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The new club, named the Society for the Study of Hong Kong Independence, and under CUHK’s student union, aims to study the feasibility of Hong Kong independence; provide a platform for members to discuss it while safeguarding freedom of speech and academic freedom; raise awareness of independence topics; and organise related activities.

Tuan, who has been in office since January, said that he had met with students four times in the past three months, including student union executive committee members and mainland students.

He stressed that he would continue to maintain this relationship.

Away from political protest, Tuan said he also hopes Hong Kong will take an international approach in its bid to become an innovation and technology hub of global importance.

With the government pledging some HK$50 billion (US$6.37 billion) to the sector in the most recent budget, Tuan said the investment must be accompanied by a plan for sustaining what it creates.

For Hong Kong, that means developing a pipeline of international collaboration.

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“Even if there is a lot of government surplus, it is still limited money, which cannot be fully maintained,” Tuan said. “We cannot end abruptly in the middle [of the pipeline].

“The most important thing is to have a receptacle, something at the back, which is employment opportunity.”

To achieve this Tuan believes the innovation and technology sector in Hong Kong, home to some seven million people, must look beyond its borders and view the world as its market. 

According to Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, HK$20 billion of the government funding will be used on the development of the planned Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park, in the border area of the Lok Ma Chau Loop

Another HK$10 billion will be earmarked to support the establishment of two research clusters focused on health care technologies, and on artificial intelligence and robotics technologies. That money will be used to attract the world’s best to Hong Kong to work on research and development projects with local universities and scientific research institutions.

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Chan has also proposed allocating HK$10 billion to Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks for it to boost research infrastructure, while injecting a further HK$10 billion into the Innovation and Technology Fund. 

“It is important not to take the money to ‘make rockets behind closed doors’,” said Chan, referring to a Chinese saying, which means to not operate in isolation.

He also stressed the importance of communicating and collaborating with others, such as through creating international clusters. 

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Tuan said the university was waiting on the government for more details on the proposals, adding he was discussing the possibilities with the leadership team at Chinese University, and had met Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor several times.