Rocky Tuan, the new head of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, says that he hopes people will discuss issues rationally and peacefully on campus.
He took up office on Monday after the university was embroiled in controversy last year over the hoisting and removal of Hong Kong independence banners. His predecessor Joseph Sung was strongly criticised by students for supporting the removal of the banners and signing a joint statement opposing Hong Kong independence and condemning “abuses” of free expression.
“Academic freedom and freedom of speech are the foundations of the university – we will consolidate these core values,” Tuan said when he met the press officially for the first time on Wednesday. “But I very much hope that within the realms of freedom of speech and academic freedom, people will discuss rationally and peacefully.”
Asked how will he handle similar banners if they appear again, Tuan said: “The university now has a very clear stance and procedures. So I believe in such circumstances, firstly we have to defend freedom of speech and academic freedom, but we must respect other people’s opinion, and protect freedom of speech with a rational and peaceful attitude.”
Tuan, a biotechnology expert, was born and raised in Hong Kong before he moved to the US for university. He spent most of his academic career in the country.
He said his top mission at the university will be to preserve its tradition of providing a general education for students and a humanistic spirit.
“We all know everything is changing fast in the 21st century. How to prepare the university, scholars and students for these challenges is my mission,” he said. “I have these missions when I came back, and I am honoured to come back to my hometown to work with everyone of the CUHK to take it to the next level.”
“I wish to adopt an open and respectful attitude to set an example in serving CUHK.”