Opening remarks by President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Xiang Zhang at HKU

On July 3rd, as Davin just mentioned, I issued a short statement which have drawn some criticisms from our students and alumni. I understand your concern and frustrations and I wish to say a few words before we engage in further discussion.

I am sure you would agree that events occurred in June and July have been happening surprisingly fast. In fact, spiraling downward with the situation getting worse so quickly. At that time, I was flying back from an overseas trip when I saw the news on TV on July 1st and I was very very sad, angry and above all, very worried about our citizens’ lives. If you think about it, in a confined environment in the LegCo building, if students or protestors are engaged in a very small space, what could have happened?

I have a true fear, even today, of violence. All my life I have witnessed many unfortunate confrontations and I know once violence begins, it can easily lead to tragedy. Bloodshed can be a point of no return. Violence is never a solution. I personally am against violence of any kind, by any party, at any juncture.

I want to tell you, with hands in my heart, the fear of violence is the underlying cause of my immediate reaction. I wanted to remind everyone not to resort to violence. I had no intention to please or to place blame on anyone.

Of course some of our students and alumni are also concerned with the University’s academic freedom. As I said before, academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are core values of our University. I pledge to uphold these important values.

We at HKU support our students in freely expressing themselves. We care about your safety and well-being. As the President of this great University, it is my moral obligation to protect our students.

I am also aware that my statement had not eased the tension in Hong Kong, while the criticism made by some students and alumni and others was that my comments lacked a certain empathy for individuals engaging in peaceful demonstration and protests. Looking back, I find this criticism is perhaps fair. My short remarks indeed have failed to address frustrations and aspirations of some of our students and alumni.

I am grateful tonight to have this opportunity to listen and to talk to all of you. This is probably the first time in HKU and even in Hong Kong that we can sit down and start a dialogue since June. We come from different generations and with different political beliefs maybe, but we can sit together in this gorgeous Loke Yew Hall in this historical building.

Today we have about 600 students, alumni, staff and friends here. We have media friends at the back, the whole of Hong Kong is watching us. I really hope this kind of frank and direct conversation can start not only in HKU but also at every corner of our society. We are never afraid of contrasting views. We treasure and celebrate diversity, diverse views and diverse people, in Hong Kong, in Hong Kong U. I hope this type of dialogue may help all people in Hong Kong, including the government, to listen to each other, especially the true voice of our youth and Hong Kong people. Thank you very much!

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