Professor Teng Jin-guang, president of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), refused to shake hands with two masked doctoral graduates during the annual graduation ceremony on Sunday.
Before the incident took place, Teng addressed the PolyU’s 25th congregation that saw the conferment of honorary doctorates on two prominent figures, Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges and Tsinghua University president Professor Qiu Yong, and doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees on 326 graduates.
In his speech, Teng said that while Hong Kong society is now seriously divided, he hopes the university can uphold the philosophy of education to embrace diversity and accommodate different perspectives.
Teng, a former vice president of the Southern University of Science and Technology, called on all parties to “enhance communication” as a way of helping end the violence, break the current impasse and restore public order.
During the ceremony, a female graduate with a black face mask walked onstage and took it off before taking a bow at PolyU Council chairman Lam Tai-fai, but when she walked toward Teng, she put the mask back on, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The move prompted Teng to refuse to shake her hand and politely gestured with his hand for her to get off the stage.
Later, another graduate did the same thing, taking off her surgical mask in front of the university council chairman but putting it back on before the university head. Once again, Teng did not shake hands with the graduate.
The university said the candidates for graduation had been told during a rehearsal of the relevant arrangements for the ceremony.
Since the event a “solemn and grand occasion”, all the candidates were expected to respect it, including not wearing a mask when on the stage, according to the university.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, as PolyU’s chancellor, was responsible for presenting diplomas to the graduates last year, but the job was taken over by Lam Tai-fai on Sunday.
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