25 Oct 2019

Open Letter from the Rapid Response Task Force

25 Oct 2019

Dear Students, Colleagues and Alumni,

Professor Rocky S. Tuan, our Vice-Chancellor and President, issued an open letter last week, when he announced that a cross-functional Rapid Response Task Force with five subgroups, each responsible for specific areas of support, would be set up to tackle issues of concern to all members of the University related to the recent social unrest. As conveners of the subgroups, we would like to elaborate on the purposes of the Task Force and the scope of work of each subgroup, to give all stakeholders a clearer picture of the University’s vision and work direction, so that you could give suggestions for resolving the current issues with collective wisdom and efforts.

Let us begin by reaffirming that the University has always adhered to its educational philosophy, and defended freedom of expression and academic freedom. We are committed to creating a diverse learning environment for students to enhance their knowledge and pursue the truth, ensuring that all students are nurtured in the spirit of the University motto, “Through learning and temperance to virtue”. We recognise that the duties of moral education, knowledge transmission, as well as counseling students, are facing various challenges in this complex and intricate social atmosphere. The University is not an ivory tower, nor does it have a fire wall.  Indeed, we are a microcosm of society and the recent social unrest will naturally have repercussions to the community on campus. The polarised society has already intensified contradictions among different University stakeholder groups. As indicated in previous statements and speeches of the Vice-Chancellor and President, the University must encompass opinions of all our stakeholders and prevent the campus from becoming a political arena. The University has a responsibility to educate students that they must bear the responsibilities and consequences of their words and actions. Regardless of their different views and social backgrounds, students must exercise their freedom of expression in a respectful, peaceful and rational manner, and they must not commit any forms of bullying, insult, destruction and, in particular, illegal activities. The University’s disciplinary procedure emphasizes character building over punishments because only a loving and caring approach to pastoral care will lead to a positive change that empowers students to learn to accept responsibilities and consequences of their words and actions and rekindle hope for the future.

In his open letter, Professor Tuan followed up on the conversation with students in the evening of 10 October, expressing the University’s pastoral care in providing support and advice to the arrested students. He was acutely aware that the day-to-day operations and safety of the campus, the academic progress and mental wellness of all our students, and inclusivity and integration among members of the University had been affected by current social events. Accordingly, Professor Tuan announced the establishment of five subgroups to address these issues, in order to formulate and implement timely and effective response measures. The preparatory work has now started. We are grateful for many positive responses, and since the issue of Vice-Chancellor and President’s open letter, we have received comments and suggestions from alumni, for the benefit of their alma mater. Students have also responded positively to the invitation by submitting list of candidates to serve as members of the five subgroups to provide services to fellow students. We are grateful that members of the University are willing to work with us in this difficult moment. The principal objectives of each subgroup are as follows:

(1) Subgroup on Cultural Inclusion
 (Convener: Professor Dennis K.P. Ng, Pro-Vice-Chancellor / Vice-President)

CUHK has about 8,000 non-local students (including undergraduates and postgraduates) who come from 50 countries and regions around the globe. Impacted by the social movement in recent months, there have been significant changes and challenges to the lives of non-local students in the community and on campus. Through this subgroup, the University hopes to collect views of students from different cultural backgrounds, facilitate integration and upholding the rights and interests of different stakeholder groups on campus so that all students can focus on their study in a peaceful environment.

Terms of reference include:

  • To assess the current situation of society and the campus, and identify critical challenges that could prevent integration and harmony.
  • To advise the University on various culturally inclusive activities that aim to create in-depth dialogue opportunities for University members from different cultural backgrounds and promote mutual understanding.
  • To coordinate the relevant units (including Colleges and Departments) in supporting students to deal with any campus bullying.
  • To collect external opinions or recommendations on University cultural integration, and provide support to existing service units.

(2) Subgroup on Academic Support
(Convener: Ms. Kitty W.H. Yu, Registrar)

The University is always committed to maintaining normal teaching activities and operations under any circumstances, and has issued guidelines to teachers and students on class arrangements to protect the learning rights of all students. If the normal class arrangement of individual learning projects is affected due to classroom locations or traffic problems, the subgroup will respond quickly to minimise any possible impact on the adjustments made. Recently some of the affected students have expressed their wish to adjust their study plans. Through this subgroup, the University will focus on dealing with issues such as late course drop and temporary leave of absence.

Terms of reference include:

  • To handle individual student’s academic problems, such as course drop and application for leave of absence, and to provide assistance.
  • To make recommendations to relevant departments/units for review on a case-by-case basis if a student needs to extend the period of study.
  • To handle class-related arrangements promptly and make announcements effectively when appropriate.

(3) Subgroup on Campus Safety, Security and Legal Matters
(Convener: Mr. Eric S.P. Ng, Vice-President)

In the past few months, some students have expressed a number of concerns about law enforcement by police in the University and its vicinity, the orderliness of the campus, as well as the professional support provided by the University through the voluntary team of alumni-lawyers. Therefore, the subgroup on campus safety, security and legal matters will focus on communicating with different stakeholder groups and develop feasible and effective measures, through discussions, to further enhance the effectiveness of the University’s work in these areas.

Terms of reference include:

  • To handle and respond to safety and security issues on campus promptly.
  • To handle enquiries about legal support from all students and liaise with the voluntary team of alumni-lawyers to provide assistance.
  • To set up and manage a 24-hour legal support hotline for students who need help.

(4) Subgroup on Student Support and Well-being
(Convener: Professor Dennis K.P. Ng, Pro-Vice-Chancellor / Vice-President)

The physical and mental wellness of students has always been an important area of focus for the University. We note that many students are facing different kinds of pressure under the current social environment.  In response to the above situation, the subgroup on student support and well-being will work towards creating a more positive campus environment, and provide appropriate assistance tailored to the needs of individual students.

Terms of reference include:

  • To coordinate different units to create a positive campus environment.
  • To promote better mental wellness in students by organising various activities and education publicity work, and enhance the service of the existing 24-hour emotional support hotline.
  • To provide students in need with services from psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, and evaluate the feasibility of short-term recruitment of counselors with different cultural backgrounds to better meet the needs of different students.
  • To contact alumni-volunteers who are willing to assist students with various needs in different ways.

(5) Subgroup on Communications and Engagement
 (Convener: Mr. Eric S.P. Ng, Vice-President)

In this era of information overload, the rapidly evolving communication platforms have made it difficult for University members with different communication means to receive the latest information promptly. To ensure effective and positive communication on campus, we will introduce a new communication approach that will allow the distribution of verified information on multiple platforms, containing accurate information across the different platforms. Our target is to ensure that every University member has access to adequate, accurate information pertinent to effective learning and constructive campus life.

Terms of reference include:

  • To disseminate relevant information and latest news through various communication platforms including Telegram ( ) and WeChat (WeChat ID: CUHKofficial).
  • To produce different versions of information based on the features of various platforms, and issue messages accompanied by a brief summary for easy reading.
  • To coordinate different stakeholders, strengthen communication and understanding.
  • To seek advice from industry experts as necessary.

Hong Kong society is now at a juncture that is unprecedentedly turbulent. At this point in  history, the University must more than ever adhere to its educational ideal: to embrace and accept students with different ideas, different beliefs and different cultures, in a spirit of teaching for all without discrimination. We must teach students in accordance to their aptitude. This is not only the principle of education but also our commitment to society. Young people are the future of society and accordingly we must not give up on any student.  As long as we are steadfast in our beliefs, we are sure that with our collective efforts Hong Kong will be able to navigate through the current crisis.

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom; Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene – one step enough for me.

Although the road ahead is long and hard, let us move forward steadily and surely, together.


Dennis K.P. Ng, Pro-Vice-Chancellor / Vice-President
Eric S.P. Ng, Vice-President
Kitty W.H. Yu, Registrar

The Chinese University of Hong Kong