'Lawbreakers responsible for actions'

Top News | Sophie Hui 31 Aug 2017

Occupy movement students should be held responsible for their actions and cannot escape punishment if they break the law, outgoing University of Hong Kong vice chancellor Peter Mathieson says.

Student leaders Alex Chow Yong- kang - who is an HKU alumnus - Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Nathan Law Kwun- chung were jailed for six to eight months after a sentencing review two weeks ago.

Mathieson said he will not comment on whether the sentences were too heavy when asked by reporters.

"We expect people to take responsibility for their actions. We understand people's motivations and their concerns about themselves and about the future," the vice chancellor said yesterday. "We can't absolve the breaking of the law and it is not the university's place to let the punishment be discussed.

"That's why we respect the court system, we respect their judgments."

But, he added, the university will provide support to students or staff in difficulties.

Mathieson, who leaves the university in January, delivered his final inauguration speech to more than 1,300 new students. He has been appointed the next principal and vice chancellor of the University of Edinburgh.

Mathieson expressed concern about student suicides and urged youngsters to seek help if they feel stressed.

"Please remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength," he said.

He also reminded students to act like adults and respect others' opinions.

"We will treat you as adults, capable of thinking for yourselves, making tough choices, learning from mistakes. In return, we will expect you to behave as adults: respecting the views of others even if they are very different from your own."

HKU Students' Union president Wong Ching-tak said in his speech during the inauguration that students should see Chow, Billy Fung Jing-en, Edward Leung Tin-kei and Colman Li Fung-kei - who are all from HKU - as role models.

"They are the people that have fought for not just our generation but our later generations so that we may have a better Hong Kong," Wong said. "They are the people that we should be learning from."

Wong urged the new students to pursue and know the truth, especially during "a time of delusion and deception."

He said students should not turn a blind eye to injustice.

Otherwise, things that people treasure will disappear and they could not even call themselves Hongkongers, he added.

He does not want to see the younger generation say they had done nothing for the city when they ask themselves 30 years on.

Mathieson confirmed that he had received a handful of letters urging that Occupy leader and associate professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting should stop teaching at HKU's faculty of law.

Mathieson said he had read the letters but he does not totally agree with the senders.

"I read these letters and don't agree with them all and I don't expect to agree with everybody," he said.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu has said he sent a letter to the university and started an online petition asking for the removal of Tai from his position. More than 25,000 people had signed by last night.

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