HKU probes sex-pest claim against tutor

Local | Stella Wong 14 May 2019

University of Hong Kong president Zhang Xiang says an immediate probe has been launched into allegations that a dental school tutor sexually harassed a female student.

The part-time tutor allegedly leered at her while looking at her chest, patted her on the back, touched her arms and shoulders, and told her how he liked her to wear dresses.

In an e-mail sent to teachers, students and alumni on Sunday, Zhang said the university finds the allegation "very disturbing."

Zhang, who is also the vice chancellor, added: "In response, my management team and I have decided to launch an immediate investigation."

He stressed that the university provides education and training in matters related to sexual harassment, and takes preventive measures and issues sanctions against parties that are found to have engaged in such activities.

"Most importantly, staff members who hold supervisory positions must take all the necessary steps in order to prevent discrimination and harassment, and supervisors who fail to act will be held accountable," he wrote.

The university will not comment on the details of the case in order to ensure fairness and respect of privacy in the handling of the investigation, he added. This came after a Malaysian woman, in a posting on Facebook on Thursday, gave an account of how she was harassed by a part-time tutor when she was doing a postgraduate program at the dental faculty from 2015 to 2018.

According to her, the tutor, who was once the acting head of department, had repeatedly ogled her while talking to her and looking at her chest area, touched her arm and shoulder, and caressed her back up and down.

The tutor also held a red packet in such a way that its edge poked at her chest, she wrote.

The woman said she once wore a black working dress to school after attending a conference. The tutor commented on the way she looked. From then onward, the tutor asked her every week why she wasn't wearing a dress or skirt to work as "he really liked it on her."

In addition, she claimed the tutor had once told her: "Who told you to look for single men? You could always find married men." The tutor is a married man.

When she recounted her experience to peers and teacher, she said that some told her to "drop the issue and move on," as he is "someone in a position of power." She was also told "he has the capability to make my life a living hell" if she reported him.

The woman later reported the case to the course director and the tutor was removed from teaching her, but no staff had followed up with her on how she was coping with the incident.

Although she was in contact with the head of the HKU Equal Opportunities Unit, she said she had never been approached by the faculty for any statement on the incidents.

"After much deliberation, I am putting this on social media, hoping to create awareness about sexual harassment, be it at the workplace or teaching institutions," she added.

"I am not taking revenge [this is not a witch hunt] for what happened to me, but to let him back into the faculty after I have left, to jeopardize the safety of other female students, shows how lightly HKU has taken this matter," she wrote.

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