President and Vice-Chancellor of University of Hong Kong Professor Xiang Zhang responds

In response to concerns raised in recent open letters and petitions by some students and alumni, I sent an internal email to the University community yesterday (full version below), with the main points as follows:

  • I personally am against violence of any kind, by any party, and at any juncture. I had no intention to place blame on anyone with my earlier response.
  • Academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly are core values of our University which I pledge to uphold. At HKU, we support our students in freely expressing themselves and we care about their safety and well-being.
  • We fully respect academic and research freedom, and I am committed to fostering a culture of free expression and robust exchange of opinions.

The University respects the freedom of expression. The fact is, there has never been, and I believe there will not be, any disciplinary action within the University on students and staff for participating in peaceful and lawful social movements.

True to the tradition of the University, I believe there may soon be academic forums on reconciliation and rebuilding. I look forward to joining our students and staff in such dialogues.

Professor Xiang Zhang

President and Vice-Chancellor

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Full version of internal email

Dear students, colleagues, alumni and friends,

I wish to share my thoughts about the recent events. I have listened to your comments and I understand there are diverse views on my recent press statement. I also wish to take this opportunity to address concerns raised in open letters and petitions.

Let me make it very clear that I am against violence, of any kind, by any party, and at any juncture. As a scientist, I speak my mind. It was never my intention to please or to place blame.

When I saw what was happening on the night of July 1st, I was very worried for our citizens’ lives and safety, including that of young people. Like many of you, I feared the worst. I feared we would reach the point of no return.

At HKU, we embrace diversity. During the past weeks, many colleagues have engaged with our students in different ways. As always, we support our students in freely expressing themselves and we care about their safety and well-being. Academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly are core values of our University, and I pledge to uphold them.

Many in Hong Kong have now spoken in the spirit of reconciliation and rebuilding trust, including the Hon Andrew Li, the First Chief Justice of the HKSAR. But this is only the start of the healing process. We need everyone, including those in power, to seriously consider the underlying cause of the social issues and all the options and possibilities.

We have witnessed Hong Kong people taking to the streets peacefully. Let us continue our tradition of peaceful dissent and resolve our differences.

I decided to come to Hong Kong after 29 years in the USA, because Hong Kong is unique, and it has tremendous potential. I am still learning about this special place, but what I have noticed most in the year I have been here is the resilience of Hong Kong, its people and its youth.

Hong Kong faces many unprecedented challenges and contentious issues. But we shall only overcome them if we begin to reach out and understand each other. Please let us work together, and with our collective wisdom, reconcile our divided society for Hong Kong’s future.

Professor Xiang Zhang

President and Vice-Chancellor

/Public Release. View in full here.