Our university heads think there is safety in numbers. That may be why student radicals are going after them individually.
The chiefs recently released a joint statement declaring all campuses should be free of partisan politics, tolerant of opposing viewpoints and completely rejecting violence. Laudable sentiments, though likely to fall on deaf ears. Shortly thereafter, activists at Chinese University trapped its head, Professor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi, in meetings for hours and forced him to publicly condemn police violence.
Well, professor, who has been trying to burn down Hong Kong? Answer: not the police.
I am hoping other university chiefs will show more backbone. The Red Guards are now turning their attention to the University of Hong Kong. More than 2,600 students, alumni and staff have signed a petition demanding that HKU vice chancellor Zhang Xiang “condemn police brutality” and hold a dialogue with them. I am sure the professor would be happy to meet them, even if there had been no civil unrest. But those activists are grandstanding.
It is an elementary principle of free speech: you are free to criticise whoever you want, but you can’t force others to do it. Students and their supporters are free to protest against the police. But what makes them think they can force other people, including public figures, to condemn the police and use them for their own protests and political goals?
Our university chiefs have responsibility to the whole community, not just their students, especially not the radical ones. They should learn from the example of Chan Wai-keung.
A veteran lecturer and newspaper columnist, Chan was harassed and detained in his classroom at Hong Kong Community College, a part of Polytechnic University, for hours after expressing views critical of protesters. When he tried to call police, he said school management discouraged him, saying it would not solve any problem. After the event, he was removed from teaching his class.
Refusing to bow to intimidation, he insisted on his right to speak his mind. He also said, contrary to initial news reports, most of his classroom harassers were not his students, but strangers who apparently responded to attacks against him on LIHKG, an online forum popular with anti-government protesters.
The college’s response, if true, is disgraceful and craven. It rather let outsiders endanger the safety of a long-time employee than calling in police to protect him. Those responsible should be called to account.