3 Feb 2021

CUHK Open Letter

3 Feb 2021

Dear Members and Friends of CUHK,

A number of recent incidents on the CUHK campus that violated University regulations and potentially breached the law have aroused serious concerns from many CUHK members and the public. The safety and welfare of every CUHK member is a primary responsibility of the University management.  We will not condone actions that breach University regulations or the principles of diversity and inclusion, nor tolerate any act that disrupts campus operations or brings disrepute to the University. Violence or illegal activities in any form are not acceptable.  Irrespective of the number of individuals involved, we will handle each case in a most serious manner, in accordance with our educational mandate and established procedures, and mete out disciplinary and correctional measures with appropriate advice for counselling. The University is not above the law. It can neither defend individuals who are under investigation by the authorities for purported law-breaking, nor intervene in the investigations.

CUHK has entered its 58th year. Our more than 240,000 alumni have established a solid foothold in many parts and sectors of the world; our teaching quality and research capability have won international acclaim; and we have continued to spur innovations that address the rapid changes and evolving needs of society and the world. Over the years, we have overcome numerous obstacles and succeeded in transcending our core functions to arrive at what we are today—a university dedicated to civic responsibilities. Such success has not come easily.  Regrettably, Hong Kong society was rocked in 2019 by chaos arising from deep-seated conflicts among members of the community. The University unfortunately found itself at the heart of this tumult as our campus was turned into a place of disputes and extreme actions. Some members were bullied. The campus was eventually occupied by a large number of unidentified persons for illegal activities. Some members were arrested and our campus facilities suffered extensive damage. These were heartbreaking incidents for many CUHK members. The concerted efforts of the University’s staff, students, alumni and other supporters enabled us subsequently to restore the campus and resume our mission of education, research and social service. The recent breaches of regulations and laws are therefore especially distressing, particularly those that led to the arrest of some of our students. We strongly condemn individuals, whether or not part of CUHK, who have maliciously labeled the University out of a wish to express their political viewpoints, thereby tarnishing the reputation of the University which has been built upon the hard work and dedication of its faculty, staff and students since its founding. We will thoroughly review and enhance existing measures while strengthening our educational guidance and our communication with students. We will work hard on promoting the spirit of diversity and inclusion, and re-emphasise the importance of respecting the law as part of one’s civic responsibilities. We invite all CUHK members to join hands and uphold the humanistic tradition and spirit that we so cherish. 

We fully appreciate that different stakeholders of the University often hold different views and perceptions towards an issue. This reflects the inherent diversity of the University community. While we have made every effort to balance the views of different stakeholders, we have consistently and persistently deplored and condemned all forms of violence and any unlawful act. On or off campus, every individual must be responsible for their own words and actions. Society rightly has high expectations of the behaviours and ethical standards of University members. The small number of CUHK members who have taken destructively disruptive, or even illegal, actions cannot excuse or defend their behaviour by reference to whatever demands or purposes they might claim underlie their actions. They have to be held accountable for their own acts. There are established channels for University members to voice their personal opinions, but they must always be expressed in a lawful, peaceful, rational and respectful manner, and in such a way that individual rights are not violated.

In coping with the series of emergencies, our primary duty has always been to protect the safety and welfare of all our staff and students, and to safeguard the core values and reputation of the University. Once the crises had abated, we thoroughly reviewed and examined the incidents, identified our inadequacies, and proactively made redress and planned for the future. We have made every effort to rebuild the reputation of the University, restore the confidence of our members, and reinstate the campus as a reassuring and enabling place for staff and students to pursue knowledge and realize their goals.  We are most grateful for the many comments and suggestions received during this period through different channels from our colleagues, students, alumni, and community members. We read and listened to each and every one of them and understand that even the harsh comments originated from a deep concern and care for the University. We all hope for a brighter future for CUHK. As an educational institution, the University honours its duty as a guardian to facilitate correction and rehabilitation, while recognizing that any regulatory or punitive measures taken serve only as a means to promote virtue and inclusivity.

The University introduced its Diversity and Inclusion Policy in July 2020, and established a Diversity and Inclusion Office so as to affirm our commitment to upholding these beliefs and principles of openness and inclusivity. Building on successful experience of other renowned universities, the Policy brings together and strengthens all relevant policies, programmes and units that are already in place at the University under a grand mission to promote and safeguard our core values of openness, civility and inclusivity. It is a testament to our determination to foster a diverse and enabling environment for all members of CUHK, and to embrace differences in age, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, physical fitness or ability. It affirms our zero tolerance towards any form of hatred, bullying, violence, discrimination or harassment. There is absolutely no place on our campus for unlawful acts or activities. A diverse and inclusive culture, and a respect for the rule of law, are essential prerequisites for not only the healthy development of CUHK, but also of the entire society.

The times may be changing, but the mission and core values of CUHK remain the same. We are here to disseminate knowledge, pursue scholarship, serve the community, and to inculcate a sense of shared values. Let us not forget our motto – ‘Through learning and temperance to virtue’. The humanistic spirit we all prize is built on knowledge and focused on people, with the ultimate goal of benefitting mankind and contributing to the community.

Let us uphold the CUHK spirit and make a better future together.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Norman Leung, Council Chairman                 
Prof. Rocky S. Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and President
Prof. Fong Wing-ping, Head of Chung Chi College
Prof. Hector S.O. Chan, Head of New Asia College
Prof. Jimmy C.M. Yu, Head of United College
Prof. Freedom Y.K. Leung, Head of Shaw College
Prof. Nicholas Rawlins, Master of Morningside College
Prof. Wong Wing-shing, Master of S.H. Ho College
Prof. Chan Wai-yee, Master of C.W. Chu College
Prof. Anthony T.C. Chan, Master of Wu Yee Sun College
Prof. Joseph W.Y. Lau, Master of Lee Woo Sing College

(This open letter was issued at 5:00pm)