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Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 20:40
Shame on the 'another day, another dollar' mentality
By Tony Kwok
Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 20:40 By Tony Kwok

When I was working with some expatriate colleagues during the British colonial era, many of them expressed pessimism about the approach of Hong Kong’s handover in 1997. Some told me they had basically considered themselves as mercenaries and that their mentality was one of "another day, another dollar", without any real concern for the future well-being of Hong Kong. Such an attitude is sad but understandable.

So it is depressing to see that 22 years after the handover, we still have many senior public figures harboring such a defeatist attitude. The latest obvious one is that of Professor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi, vice-chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He recently published an open letter condemning alleged police violence on student arrestees. This caused an uproar of protests at all levels triggered by a critical open letter from Mr Leung Chun-ying, former chief executive and currently vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The vice-chancellor showed that he was either totally oblivious of, or intentionally downplaying, the destructive violent acts of his rioting students prior to their arrests, their vandalism of university property, and their abusive behavior to him. In the circumstances, one can only draw the inevitable conclusion that he had completely surrendered to his rude and out-of-control students just to keep his job and to continue receiving his handsome HK$6 million (US$765,000) annual salary and as a US passport holder, to return to America to enjoy his retirement after pocketing HK$30 million for his five-year tenure. He has literally thrown all internal regulations of the university out of the window by default. Doesn’t he have any sense of responsibility for teaching his students about proper conduct and basic decorum, and guiding his students on distinguishing right from wrong? He clearly has been cowered into total submission by aggressive students. I cannot believe that such a senior academic administrator can be so totally bereft of any sense of responsibility! And they say teaching is not just a job, but a calling, like a priesthood! Shame on him!

So what should be done? I suggest the Joint University Council and the Education Bureau should set up a joint complaint hotline to enable the public to make any complaints against any university and school staff, as well as against students for allegedly breaching the school and university regulations

Another impotent senior university administrator is Prof Peter P. Yuen, dean of the College of Professional and Continuing Education of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Yuen had allowed himself to be treated with contempt in his dealings with the students over their harassment and alleged illegal detention of one of his lecturers who had privately criticized the student rioters. The lecturer was subject to the foulest verbal abuse, had laser beams pointed at his private parts and was pushed to the ground three times. But when the lecturer called police, the university refused police access to the campus. Afterward, the lecturer was suspended from duties, whereas the president chose to apologize to the students! Since when have right and wrong been reversed on ethical grounds? It seems that the only motive for such an absurd turn of events is for the protagonist to keep his job and his high pay! Shame on him!

Then we have Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, our secretary for education, who over the years had never bothered to examine any teaching materials for Liberal Studies, resulting in many such textbooks containing false and misleading information with the purpose of inciting hatred against China. Just recently it was discovered that some textbooks even cited the words of jailed student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung as exemplar of Chinese values and ethics! More bizarre examples showing the cancer in our education system concern the scandals involving a vice-principal and teachers of a government-subsidized school. They were found to have openly made inappropriate remarks by cursing the police and their families. Yet the Education Bureau decided to only give them a warning and allowed them to continue to teach students. Imagine having such toxic influence in such close proximity to our children! The secretary for education is a former civil servant and by becoming a policy secretary, he has more than doubled his salary. This is probably his main interest rather than fulfilling his public duties.

Hence, it is most encouraging to note that the council of all the eight universities has just issued a joint public statement emphasizing that every university staffer and student should be responsible for their own behavior, and should abide by the law at all times. The statement also emphasized that universities have the power to suspend, expel or dismiss people who broke the law or violated regulations at the institutions.

Quite clearly, the joint statement is an indictment of the irresponsible behavior of some of the universities’ top management in condoning illegal acts of the staff and students. The message is clear, all universities should abide by the disciplinary rules to punish all who have violated the law or campus regulations. 

So what should be done? I suggest the Joint University Council and the Education Bureau should set up a joint complaint hotline to enable the public to make any complaints against any university and school staff, as well as against students for allegedly breaching the school and university regulations. A large independent investigation team should be set up to investigate all these complaints. The investigations should be thoroughly and fairly carried out and all alleged suspects should be given a chance to defend themselves. At the end, if the allegations are substantiated, those cases should be forwarded to the respective universities or school authorities for follow up disciplinary proceedings. The process, as well as the propriety of punishment, should be monitored by the Education Bureau and made public. This would ensure that everyone, as the joint council's statement said, would be responsible for their own behavior.

As President Xi Jinping has said time and again: "Any public official not performing their duties should be shamed for life." At this critical time, Hong Kong cannot afford to retain any public officials with the "another day, another dollar" mentality! 

The author is an honorary fellow of the HKU Space and the Open University and an adviser of Our Hong Kong Foundation. He is also a former director of operations and deputy commissioner of the ICAC.

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