17 March 2011

Vice-Chancellor’s Open Letter
Earthquake and tsunami in Japan: CUHK mourns the victims and extends sympathy to the survivors

Dear Colleagues, Students and Alumni,

We are most distressed to see the northeastern coastal prefectures of Japan devastated by an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 at 1:47 p.m. on March 11 (Hong Kong time) and the subsequent tsunami. Towns were destroyed and many families were uprooted. Up to now, over 4,000 are reported dead and over 9,000 missing. Over 340,000 live in temporary shelters amidst increasingly adverse conditions. All these have been exacerbated by the threat of radioactive contamination caused by the damaged nuclear plants in Fukushima, affecting hundreds of thousands in the neighbouring regions.

Like you, I have been following the events as they unfold, and feel the deepest sympathy for those who have lost their lives, homes and loved ones. As citizens of this global village, we are very close to one another, especially in the face of natural disasters. We must lend a hand or a shoulder to our less fortunate brethren when calamities strike.

The Japanese people have impressed the world with their courage, resilience and discipline in these trying times. To express our sympathy and respect for the Japanese people and to wish them a speedy recovery from their physical injuries and relief from their sorrows, the Chinese University will observe a minute of silence at 1:47 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, March 18). When that moment arrives, please put aside your cares and chores and join me in dedicating our thoughts and wishes to those affected by the disaster. 

The University will hold a candlelight vigil at7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 24 at the University Square(outside University Library). You are all invited to come to express your concern and to show support. 

The University has also opened a special account, Hang Seng Bank A/C No. 293-005005-023, to receive donations for the relief of the earthquake and tsunami victims. I appeal to all to lend a helping hand by making deposits to the said account on or before March 30. All the sums received will be given to the Red Cross for relief purposes. 

CUHK’s ties with Japan go back a long way. Courses on Japanese society, culture and language were offered in as early as 1967. The Department of Japanese Studies was established 20 years ago. Today, we have close ties with many prestigious Japanese universities for student exchange and academic collaborations. Soon after the news of the earthquake and tsunami reached us, the University managed to contact all the 49 students on exchange in Japan and have confirmed their safety. Some have already returned to Hong Kong. We have advised the remaining students to consider returning to Hong Kong at the earliest available opportunity. We are also making preparations for transferring them to partner institutions farther away from the affected areas should they choose to do so. We will be in continuous and frequent contacts with these students and their families, and with our exchange partners in Japan to ensure their safety and facilitate them to continue their studies. At the same time, the University has been in touch with all the 18 Japanese students at CUHK to provide the necessary assistance. 

The number of casualties from the disasters is still increasing everyday. The extent of the devastation and the repercussions of its aftermath may be more serious than might have been anticipated. I sincerely wish that every member of the CUHK community can do as much as we can to help the survivors. The tragedy has focused our minds as inhabitants of this planet. Concern for our fellow human beings, without regard for geographic or national boundaries, is one beacon of hope in the difficult days ahead.  


Joseph J Y Sung