(Sharing by Prof. Zhang Xiang, vice-chancellor of University of Hong Kong on July 5 with HKU alumni during a luncheon. The following is a rough recollection of his address.)
I came to Hong Kong and HKU a year ago, with the ambition I presented to you, but at the same time I realise the challenge.
Last few months we have seen the society, with lot of pursuit of different ideas, different opinions, and different vision.
Honestly speaking, I was quite impressed with how peaceful, hundreds of thousands of people go to the street- very orderly, and people respect law.
I also understand, even though I’ve only been here for one year, there is much large socio-economic context behind this.
And I do appreciate our young students’ passion to pursuit a better Hong Kong. These are all great ideals and passion.
But recently, I’m sad to see the storming of our Legco building.
This is the symbol of our constitution, the reason we are so successful in Hong Kong. We have law and order, and businesses are launched here, to become world class enterprises. Because we have good law and order- now if we lose that, it’s very very dangerous.
Let’s put that in perspective. If we see someone storm into a US Capitol Hill, we will definitely be seeing much larger than what we see today. No country will tolerate that [of storming into parliament] in Western Countries and other places. So we have to be very very careful.
On the night when I see the storming [into Legco], I got so frightened and fear[ful] that’s something could happen. We reached to a point, that if the society is going on like this, we are going to reach the point of no return.
So we have to act, we have to save this city.
I may not have enough understanding of the Hong Kong society, but I do have the same care as you. I think we should work together, to heal the society, mend the differences, through dialogue and constructive conversations. University leaders should play a role.
I know there are many challenges, different views, very diverse.
Hong Kong is a very vibrant, people are kind. When I walked down the street, many of them are very honest, hardworking. We need that in the society.
Before I arrive in Hong Kong, some of my close friends in US asked me, by looking at newspapers, the society is quite polarised. There are opinions going to the right, to the left. They said: “You’re going to be in the middle.”
I know every vice-chancellor probably are squeezed in the middle. I know it’s hard to do. But we should not forget, the world is not just one dimension, there is another dimension, the vertical as well. And that is innovation, ideas, building better Hong Kong and building better HKU.
And I look forward to that, that’s the reason I come to Hong Kong, try to look at new dimensions, look at new ideas, strength, and build a better Hong Kong.