Statement: Academic freedom at stake

14 July 2000

The Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor is shocked by Dr. Robert Chung Ting Yiu's statement that it was the Vice-Chancellor Cheng Yiu Chung and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong who passed on messages of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to ask Dr. Chung to stop his polls which have highlighted the low and dropping support to the Chief Executive.

We understand that such allegation has yet to be verified and we called on the Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and the Vice-Chancellor Cheng Yiu Chung to explain to the public what had happened.

Irrespective of the fact whether the Chief Executive or his office did intend to put pressure on Dr. Chung or involve in this incident at all, we regret that Pro-Vice-Chancellor Wong Siu-lun of the University seemed to exert pressure on Dr. Chung instead of defending the autonomy of the university and the freedom of the university's academics. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor should have understood that his advice would inevitably amount to pressure on Dr. Chung.

The Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor has over the years observed that many academics have already become more reluctant to express their own views when they found such views different from the Hong Kong Government's on politically important issues. We fear that this incident will further inhibit the academic freedom in the local tertiary institutions and the freedom of expression of their academics.

The Chief Executive was not elected by universal and equal suffrage. The public has already been denied the right to make him accountable by their vote. If independent poll on political support is further restricted by whatever reason the public will be deprived of an important means to express their views on important issues and held the government more accountable.

We regret that this incident has tarnished the image of Hong Kong, the Chief Executive and the University.

2000 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

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