Message from President and Vice-Chancellor
A message from the President and Vice-Chancellor on behalf of the Senior Management Team
Dear colleagues, students, alumni and friends,
This is a follow-up to our initial message on July 29. Our fact-finding about the events that took place before, during and after the Council meeting on July 28 is not yet complete, but we wish to make the following points:
We have repeatedly said that we condemn violence by any party in any setting, also that we expect all adults to take responsibility for their own actions. If we find evidence of criminal offences having been committed we will report them to the police; similarly any person who has such evidence should report it directly to the police.
For the July 28 meeting of Council, stringent efforts were made to adhere to the principles arising from the University’s “818” report** including that we would aim to respect freedom of expression whilst paying attention to safety, that we should “not tolerate unnecessary use of force or restraint”, “physical confrontation should be avoided as much as possible”, “any untoward incident on campus should first be handled by HKU security” with police being called only if/when University staff were unable to maintain safety and security, etc. However, the number of people involved and in particular the involvement of outside parties, plus the emotion and tension of the occasion, all conspired to overwhelm these arrangements.
While our security personnel and other University staff performed admirably in a very difficult situation, we were nevertheless obliged to call for assistance from the police, who were called to public areas within our campus. Appeals were also made, by me and others, to the protestors to leave the Council chamber in an orderly manner. Regrettably, they did not do so. Council members were prevented from leaving, and allegations of assault, defamation and intimidation have arisen.
Regarding possible disciplinary action against those responsible, a dossier of information including legal advice is being compiled which will inform me as to whether there are grounds for any referrals to the University’s Disciplinary Committee. There will not be further public announcements on any disciplinary action until the University’s normal procedures have been completed. Separately, the University Council might decide to take action against any of its members.
We have taken urgent action to learn lessons from July 28 and to plan for future meetings, aiming to ensure that we protect the safety and security of all University members and allow the University’s normal functions to proceed. For security reasons we will not give any further details.
We will not tolerate any repeat of the events of July 28. In future, we will carefully gather evidence including video footage, identity checks and witness statements. We will call the police if we judge it necessary.
Finally, in keeping with the expectations of our university, we appeal to everyone to conduct discussions in a peaceful, rational and orderly manner.
Professor Peter Mathieson
President and Vice-Chancellor
** "The Report of the Review Panel on the Centennial Ceremony held on August 18, 2011".