Community & Education Hong Kong Politics & Protest

HKU head Zhang Xiang promises dialogue with students after criticism over statement on LegCo storming

The head of the University of Hong Kong met with his critics again on Friday night, promising to appear at a public forum within a week.

HKU’s president and vice-chancellor Zhang Xiang has been under fire for his response to the storming of the legislature on July 1. In his July 3 statement, Zhang said he was “disheartened by the violence that occurred in the Legislative Council building and would like to condemn such destructive acts.”

Zhang Xiang Davin Wong

HKUSU Acting President Davin Wong and HKU Vice-chancellor Zhang Xiang. Photo: Campus TV, HKUSU screenshot.

Some 2,000 HKU students, alumni and staff signed a petition asking Zhang to retract his statement, which prompted Zhang to state on July 11 that it was not his intention to single out the students for blame.

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

On Friday, students led a march to Zhang’s residence at around 11pm following an on-campus protest rally that drew around 300 people.

【現場直播張翔與港大學生對話】(00:17)張翔承諾將於一週內舉辦公開論壇與學生對話,並將邀請傳媒出席。(00:11)張翔表示不會讓警方在沒有法律依據的情況下進入校園範圍。(00:07)有同學指張翔只是在重複聲明中的內容,並未有對現今香港的情況透徹了解,提議稍後再舉辦公開論壇與同學對話。(00:00)張翔指並沒有把近期社會運動標籤為「暴力」,只是指破壞立法會大樓玻璃等行為為「暴力」。(23:58)有同學詢問若張翔能保證不與警方合作讓其進入校園範圍拘捕學生,並問及若張翔支持成立獨立調查委員會徹查警方清場行為等。(23:53)署理會長黃程鋒指張翔於七月三日發表的聲明缺乏同情心,令眾多學生失望。(23:50)張翔重申暴力不是解決問題的方法。(23:30)張翔答應與學生在其府邸會面。

Posted by Campus TV, HKUSU 香港大學學生會校園電視 on Friday, 12 July 2019

Zhang came out to meet with the protesters – mostly students – at the gate of his University Drive residence, and repeated his stance that violence on all sides should be condemned.

However, Zhang also said he would not allow police to enter the campus and arrest students unless they have “lawful warrants,” which was met with applause. He vowed to give support to students affected by the protests, adding he was “impressed” by the students’ conduct on Friday.

Zhang agreed to participate in a forum open to students, staff, alumni and the media, as requested by HKU Student Union Acting President Davin Wong. The event is scheduled to take place within the coming week.

Zhang Xiang hku

HKU Vice-chancellor Zhang Xiang (far right) meets with students on July 10. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Asked if he supported an independent commission of inquiry to investigate alleged police abuses, Zhang referred to the upcoming study conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC).

“I understand there is disagreement on whether the commission is good enough, or has enough independence,” he said. “But if the investigation outcome is that someone, at some juncture, [used violence], that should be condemned as well – including the police.”

The conversation on Friday lasted around 40 minutes, but Wong said afterwards that the outcome was “zero,” because Zhang made no concessions.

HKU social sciences professor Joseph Chan, who helped mediate between the students and Zhang, said that he felt the vice-chancellor was “sincere” in his desire to talk. Zhang previously said he was new to the job and was unfamiliar with Hong Kong’s situation, but Chan noted that the defence could not be used for much longer.

HKU rally legco storming zhang xiang

HKU students hold a rally to condemn vice-chancellor Zhang Xiang for his statement on the July 1 LegCo storming. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Outside the vice-chancellor’s residence, students painted slogans on the ground and set up an ad-hoc “Lennon Wall” message board.

The earlier rally was also attended by a handful of counter-protesters, who held placards such as “Support the freedom of speech (which also applies to the vice-chancellor)” and “Against violence and destruction.”

Large-scale protests since June have since morphed into wider displays of dissent over dwindling freedoms, democracy, alleged police brutality and other community grievances

HKU head Zhang Xiang promises dialogue with students after criticism over statement on LegCo storming