The head of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) faced calls on Thursday to offer more support for student protesters who had been targeted by police during the extradition bill-related demonstrations in the city.
During a dialogue session with hundreds of students, staff and alumni, Professor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi was also urged to ensure more security and protection for the students and prevent unauthorized entry of police personnel onto university campus.
Following the event, which was marked by angry outbursts and well as emotional pleas by students, Tuan agreed to follow up on the pupils’ concerns and render assistance where possible.
In his opening speech, Tuan — who serves CUHK as its vice-chancellor and president — pointed out that there are deep-rooted problems in Hong Kong and that they can only be resolved through time and wisdom.
The government needs to conduct full-scale investigations into what caused the incidents of the past few months, he said.
Tuan pointed out that more than 30 CUHK students have been arrested on alleged offences such as taking part in unlawful assemblies and rioting since the anti-government protests began in June.
A dozen among the arrested have been prosecuted, the university chief noted.
CUHK has provided the students with legal and financial assistance through alumni who have a legal background, said Tuan.
Meanwhile, he promised that the university authorities will consider allowing those facing trials to keep their student status for up to two years, on a case-by-case basis.
Revealing that he had met the arrested students, Tuan said he can understand the students’ original intention of joining the current social movement and that he knows they have suffered trauma.
If any of the students received unreasonable treatment, the university will uphold their legal rights, he said.
In response to a student suggestion that he should offer his opinions on the government’s decision to enact an anti-mask law, Tuan said the law does not apply to university campus and therefore the CUHK is not affected at all.
As for mask-ban outside, the Legco still has some procedures as to whether the new regulation should be approved, Tuan noted.
During the dialogue, a girl student became very emotional as she spoke about what she described as sexual violence that she and some others faced at the hands of the police after being arrested during street demonstrations.
“Do you know that the body search room in San Uk Ling is totally dark?” she asked at one point, referring to the San Uk Ling Holding Centre where some suspects were lodged after they were arrested.
The girl burst into tears as she spoke and also took off her mask, asking the university chief whether he would pluck up the same courage to walk with the students and condemn the police for their violence.
Tuan responded by saying that if police do unreasonable things, he would indeed condemn the behavior.
The CUHK chief was then asked whether he is ready to issue a statement condemning police for acts of violence, to which he responded that he would condemn all forms of violence.
Meanwhile, he said he would talk to the girl.
On Friday morning, the girl clarified in a radio program that she was subjected to sexual violence only in the Kwai Chung Police Station but not at San Uk Ling Holding Centre as earlier reported.
Professor Dennis Ng Kee-pui, pro-vice-chancellor in charge of student affairs, said the CUHK is following up on students’ claims that they had been victims of police violence.
As Tuan was ready to leave, a large number of students tried to stop him by surrounding his car, prompting him to return to the hall where the dialogue was conducted and speak in private with some pupils.
The closed-door meeting was said to have been an emotional interaction in which Tuan promised that he will not allow any CHUK students to be arrested on campus.
The session had been “very effective”, RTHK quoted Tuan as telling media at the stroke of midnight after the meeting that ran for about two hours.
The university chief promised to improve communication with students going forward, and also said that he would issue a statement next week, according to the public broadcaster.
Some students shook Tuan’s hands to express their thanks before he left the venue in the night.
The police said in a Facebook post on Thursday night that they were aware that a female university student had claimed that she was sexually assaulted by police officers when detained in San Uk Ling Holding Centre, after she was arrested.
“The Police accord high priority to such a serious allegation,” the law enforcement agency said in the post.
However, the Complaints Against Police Office so far has not received any complaint of sexual assault related to the San Uk Ling Holding Centre, it said.
The police “will proactively contact the female and appeal to her to provide concrete evidence” so that authorities “can launch a fair fact-finding investigation as soon as possible,” it added.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yung-hung said on Friday morning that he felt sad after learning about the claim of the female student, and that he hopes she receives counseling assistance soon.
Yeung called on people who have more information to approach the police so as to help them in carrying out a detailed investigation.
At lunchtime Friday, hundreds joined a flash mob rally at Chater Garden, voicing concerns about alleged police excesses and the case of the female student.
The rally later turned into a march through streets in Central.
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