HKU head calls for reconciliation, won't retract earlier remarks

July 11, 2019 17:15
HKU president and vice-chancellor Professor Zhang Xiang said he made the statement on July 3 because he was worried about the students’ safety. Photo: i-Cable News

Professor Zhang Xiang, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), said he supports people who fight for demands in a peaceful manner, but did not retract earlier remarks condemning the storming and vandalizing of the Legislative Council complex last week.

Zhang was reacting to a petition letter signed by some 2,000 HKU students, alumni and staff, asking him to retract his earlier statement assailing the violence and destructive acts of the protesters in the July 1 incident, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In the letter, the petitioners said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her officials are to blame for what had happened on July 1, the 22nd anniversary of the handover, and the youth were forced to take to the streets because of the government's refusal to accept their demands.

The signatories wanted Zhang to protect freedom of speech and assembly, and promise that no HKU students and staff should be punished for participating in the campaign against the extradition bill, which Lam insisted on Tuesday is already "dead".

Accepting the letter on Wednesday, Zhang said he made the statement on July 3 because he was worried about the students’ safety, adding that violence, whether coming from the police or the protesters, should be condemned.

In an emailed statement for HKU students, staff and alumni issued that night, Zhang said many Hongkongers now hope to seek reconciliation with the government and rebuild mutual trust.

This can be the beginning of mending social rifts, Zhang said in the email, adding that the chief executive and citizens must contemplate on the roots of social problems.

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