15 November 2019

CUHK Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Rocky S. Tuan's Open Letter



Appeal from Prof. Rocky Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and President of The Chinese University of Hong Kong:

We are keenly aware of the concern of the whole Hong Kong community, especially University members, regarding recent events at CUHK.  Accordingly, we wish to provide an account of what has happened in our University campus in the past few days.

On Monday 11 November, there were individuals found throwing objects onto the Tolo Harbour Highway from the No.2 bridge at CUHK for the purpose of interrupting traffic. We condemn such irresponsible acts as it could seriously endanger human life. We understand that the police had to enter our campus and station themselves on the bridge to prevent such acts and ensure the safety of traffic flow on the highway. Although CUHK has right of way to the No.2 bridge, it is officially public property.

In the next evening, I went to the scene with a view to negotiate with the protesters and the police.  The police suggested that as long as the protesters would cease throwing objects down from the No.2 bridge, they would retreat from the bridge.  The University then conveyed the suggestion to the protesters; unfortunately, it was not accepted and violent confrontations later broke out again.  Eventually, the police departed the campus as suggested by the University, and the protesters took possession of the bridge. The boundary of the campus was cordoned off subsequently by masked protesters to prevent access to the University via the east entrance leading directly to the bridge.

On Wednesday 13 November, objects were again thrown from the bridge onto the highway by masked protesters, and as a result the highway was no longer safe for traffic to pass through and has since been closed. We condemn the irresponsible act and wish to apologise to the general public for the resultant traffic chaos that has seriously inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of commuters.

In the past few days, a large number of masked protesters entered the University campus in response to online appeals and have caused wide mayhem. We have reason to believe that the majority of these masked protesters are not CUHK students. Afterwards, many more seriously illegal activities were seen on campus. The masked protesters set fires, removed bricks from pavements, stole vehicles, and broke into our academic buildings and hostels, wrecking properties and damaging facilities. Our canteens and kitchens have also been taken over. These masked protesters brought in materials and supplies from outside to assemble a large number of petrol bombs. Some of our laboratories have also been broken into, and various hazardous and highly flammable chemicals have been removed, some of which may be turned into explosives, posing serious life threats. We deeply regret that the University has become a base camp for these individuals to conduct the above illegal activities, that present serious public safety hazards.  We believe that it will take months to repair and restore some of these damages to the campus.

Since Wednesday, masked protesters were stationed at all entrances to the University campus to control access.  Barricades were built to block the roads inside and outside the campus, and vehicles, including fire service vehicles and ambulances, can no longer pass through these gates. University members entering the campus have been made to show their identity cards to masked protesters, and have their bags searched and even their telephones screened by them. Such acts have seriously restricted free access of University members and caused panic.  These totally unacceptable acts indicate that our University has now been taken over by masked outsiders.

I understand that many members of CUHK as well as our stakeholders are distraught to see what has happened to their beloved and beautiful campus, and urgently wish to see order restored and the damages repaired. In view of the escalating sentiment both inside and outside campus and after rigorous risk assessment, we have decided to terminate the semester early, and are doing our best to facilitate members of the University to leave the campus.

As university operations have been seriously compromised, I strongly request that all outsiders leave our University campus immediately. The University is a place of learning, not a weapons factory, battlefield for violent acts, or political arena.  If the University should find it impossible to execute our core functions and mission, we will have no choice but to seek assistance from relevant government departments to help us resolve the difficult situation.

We also advise members of the University community who still remain on campus, in hostels and staff quarters, to leave the campus as soon as possible on a temporary basis, so that function and order can be restored, and our colleagues can start work to clean up and repair all the damages. With a positive response to our plea, we will be able to bring order out of chaos and restore peace on campus.

Rocky S Tuan
Vice-Chancellor and President