Vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Peter Mathieson has said that Hong Kong independence “is not a realistic option” and would not be in the best interests of the university.

“The University of Hong Hong was established 105 years ago, as an English-speaking university for China, and we remain committed to ever closer working ties with universities and institutions in the mainland,” he said.

However, speaking at the inauguration ceremony for new students on Friday, Mathieson also said debates of sensitive and controversial issues should be respected on campus.

Peter Mathieson. Photo: HKU Undergrad.

“The cornerstones of our university are institutional autonomy, academic freedom, freedom of thought, of speech and of assembly, including on sensitive and controversial issues. This must be a place where different opinions can be debated and respected. It must be a place of reason, liberty and diversity,” he added.

“However, freedoms come with responsibilities. There’s no place in the university for hatred, offensive language or behaviour or violence. Members of the university should respect the law and should understand and accept the consequences of their actions.”

His remarks came after the Education Bureau’s warned that teachers may lose their professional qualifications if they advocate independence in schools. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also said Hong Kong independence is not a matter of freedom of speech, and compared talk of independence to foul language.

Also speaking at the ceremony, the president of HKU’s student union, Althea Suen said the city’s independence should not be a taboo subject.

Althea Suen. Photo: Apple Daily.

“Hong Kong is not China, and any discussion on Hong Kong’s prospects should be encouraged, not prohibited,” she said.

In the 2015 Policy Address, Leung criticised HKU’s student publication Undergrad for discussing independence.

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Koel Chu

Koel Chu is a second-year journalism and fine arts student at the University of Hong Kong. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Koel is interested in the arts and urban design. She interned at China Radio International in Beijing and, at her university, she also works as Vice-President of Branding and Marketing in AIESEC, the largest youth-run organisation in the world.