Dear Colleagues, Students, Alumni and Members of the HKU Family,
The University held a most dignified Centenary Ceremony last week. Vice-Premier Li Keqiang of the State Council, and key officials from Ministries of Education, Science and Technology were among our invited guests. The event gave us the opportunity not only to showcase HKU’s many achievements in different aspects, but also to further reaffirm the tie between Hong Kong and the Mainland. Indeed, as the most international university in China, HKU has an obligation to build a meaningful link between the higher education on the Mainland and that of the world.
Unfortunately, the occasion was marred by some imperfect arrangements and an unhappy incident.
I must admit, with much regret, that the event could have been better planned and organised. However, this was the University’s first time to have a state leader attending such an important ceremony on campus. We simply did not have too much experience in organising an event of such nature in a short time frame. We have already received a large volume of feedbacks from students, staff, alumni and members of the community. All comments are important to us as they will help improve our future events of such magnitude. We also consider this an important lesson learnt and are committed to developing an appropriate set of protocols and security measures to ensure that future events would be open and engaging. The autonomy of the University must be safeguarded and freedom of expression guaranteed when any security measure is deployed.
Close to 600 people attended the Ceremony inside Loke Yew Hall. Besides Vice-Premier Li and his delegation, we had students, faculty and staff members, and other guests. There were 40 presidents and scholars from local and overseas universities. Due to the tight schedule, students were invited both as guests and helpers, through Faculty offices and Residential Hall Student Associations and from the “Student Ambassadors” and “Green Gown Guide” programmes. Over 200 students assisted in various aspects of the event organisation, but only some 80 of them attended the Ceremony due to the limited seating capacity of the Hall. We also arranged to have student representatives, including the President of the Students’ Union, the President of the Postgraduate Students Association, and student representatives from the Council and Senate, to meet Vice-Premier Li in person. For staff, we extended an invitation to the entire faculty, Assistant Professors and above, and colleagues in the administration and support departments. As for our other guests, invitations were sent to those who have given support to, or have involved in the planning of our various Centenary Celebrations activities, and many of whom were HKU alumni.
The University did not arrange for a system of registration open to all members of the HKU Family on this occasion simply because of the limited seating capacity and the very tight time frame. It is clear now that such an arrangement was unsatisfactory, despite the fact that we provided a live webcast and there was telecast via several TV stations. We will carefully reflect on how we can improve future arrangements.
Our current campus security is not designed to handle the level of security required for such kind of visit from a state leader. Therefore, we could only turn to the Hong Kong Police Force and rely on their professional experience and judgment in deciding on the security measures to be deployed on campus. We were all taken aback by the scale of police mobilised on the date of the event.
As far as the confrontation between the Police and students at K K Leung Building is concerned, we judged that the measures the Police used in handling the student protest were unacceptable. The physical contact that resulted in a student being pushed to the ground was unnecessary. We understand that the Police will be reviewing their actions and the University will continue to liaise with them to ensure that similar incidents will never occur again on campus.
I am sorry about the above incident and, as the head of this institution, would like to offer my sincere apologies to our students and alumni for not having been able to prevent it. I wish to assure them that the University campus belongs to students and teachers and that it will always remain a place for freedom of expression.
I will make sure that HKU continues to stand by its belief in freedom, liberty and diversity. The University will continue to invite leaders of different backgrounds, in different areas, and from all over the world to our campus to bring to us inspiration and ideas. HKU will also keep reaching out to other parts of the world and continue to engage with different voices and cultures.
We understand the high expectations the public has for HKU and we value the spirit of openness that Hong Kong people embrace.
Today, The University of Hong Kong is for Hong Kong, for China and for the World. Our road ahead will be challenging, but on the occasion of the University’s Centenary, we will continue to stay true to our vision and mission, and look forward to working with all of you to make our coming century an even better and brighter one.
Professor Lap-Chee Tsui
Vice-Chancellor and President
August 23, 2011