Petition Closed

Call for HKU to Investigate and Condemn Colonial Racism

This petition had 855 supporters


Dear Professor Xiang Zhang, President, University of Hong Kong: (中文版煩請見下)

In the March 18, 2020 edition of the Mingpao, a Chinese language legacy news organization of considerable repute and circulation, Dr. Kwok-Yung Yuen (袁國勇), a leading virologist at the University of Hong Kong, published an op-ed piece co-authored with Dr David Lung (龍振邦). 

In this article, Drs Yuen and Lung wrote: "The Wuhan New Coronavirus is a product of the inferior culture of the Chinese, of their unbridled hunting and consumption of wild animals, their inhumane treatment of animals, and their general disrespect for life. To satiate the panoply of their desires, they incessantly indulge in the flavor of the wild. The real source of this viral poison are the degenerate customs and inferior root stock of the Chinese people." 武漢新冠狀病毒乃中國人劣質文化之產物,濫捕濫食野生動物、不人道對待動物、不尊重生命,為滿足各種欲望而繼續食野味,中國人陋習劣根才是病毒之源。

While a discussion of the problems of zoonotic transmission is a crucial issue of concern to society at large, we cannot allow such discussion to become a pretext to close our eyes to the resurrection of colonial racism. Those with a knowledge of modern Chinese history since the 19th century recognize that the discourse of "inferior root stock national character" (劣根性民族性) is indelibly marked with the history of colonial racism. 

In an article from 1964, Dante Puzzo had already concluded that, "Racism rests on two basic assumptions: that a correlation exists between physical characteristics and moral qualities; that mankind is divisible into superior and inferior stocks.” (Dante Puzzo, “Racism and the Western Tradition,” Journal of the History of Ideas 25 (1964), pp. 579-86, p. 579).

The idea of "inferior root stock national character" is unmistakably associated with racist ideas of eugenic transformation and colonial hierarchy. It has no place in modern scientific and public discourse. 

Resurrecting the vocabulary of historical racism and lending to it the symbolic value of institutional and scientific prestige, Drs Yuen and Lung have done grave damage to the University of Hong Kong as well as Hong Kong and global civil society.  

In their public apology issued the following day, Drs Kwok-Yung Yuen and David Lung express contrition for unspecified errors of expression and fact 表達不適當,用詞甚至有錯誤. There was no retraction of their unprofessional, unscientific, and extremely inflammatory rhetoric resurrecting colonial racism of national character discourse. In fact, not only did they not retract and apologize for this unmistakably colonial form of racism, they implicitly doubled down on it: "the article had no connection to politics," they explained, "but was rather expressing a respect for the truth, to transform cultural habits and mores." . 他們稱,該文與政治無關,旨在提出尊重真相、移風易俗。

Universities have a special responsibility to engage public debate about issues of social and scientific concern such as zoonotic transmission without indulging in racist rhetoric from the past.

Because of its own colonial history, the University of Hong Kong cannot afford to allow the resurrection of colonial racism under any circumstances. It is particularly symbolic that the Li Ka-Shing School of Medical Science where Dr Yuen is a faculty member was the foundation for the University of Hong Kong established in 1910 on the basis of the Hong Kong College of Medicine.

In view of these historical roots and HKU's invaluable contributions to Hong Kong and global civil society, 

We ask: 

1) the President's Office of the University of Hong Kong should provide a public explanation for the extent and basis of its support for faculty members like Dr. Yuen whose public persona outside the university promotes the resurrection of colonial racism.

2) the establishment of a panel of inquiry to investigate and document the living history of colonial racism in this venerable institution with colonial roots.

Note: Despite the Petition Update issued on March 22, HK media continue to mischaracterize the demands of this petition. This petition does not ask for an investigation of Dr. Yuen personally, nor does it ask for a reevaluation of his employment (unless for instance it were subsequently accidentally discovered that Dr. Yuen has a documented history of employing horizontal or any other kind of racism).

What it does ask for is for the University of Hong Kong to make an effort to organize awareness about the University's colonial past and the various relations between that past and similar problems of colonial history currently under examination in anglophone universities across the globe.

The original wording in the petition included this phrase at the end: "If need be, pending further investigation, we ask that HKU reconsider its appointment of Dr Yuen." This phrase was not included in the demands of the petition. The update posted on March 22 further clarified its meaning and explicitly stated that an investigation of Dr. Yuen was not the aim. Yet the HK media continued to make false claims to the contrary. 

As the initiator of this petition, I deeply regret that the intended meaning of this sentence was not clear enough to prevent misunderstanding in a highly tense climate. I repeat, this petition is not a call to investigate Dr. Yuen and serve as a pretext for terminating his employment.

It is rather a call for the University of Hong Kong, variously: a) to confront it's own history; b) to make greater efforts to document, publicize, and raise awareness on and off campus about that history; c) to uncover that history's possible effects in the present; d) to make known publicly the University's support for remarks made off campus in public by University faculty members such as those by Dr. Yuen that resurrect horizontal racism .
 

〈懇請香港大學查究並譴責殖民種族歧視〉

在2020年3月18日版的《明報》上(一份流通率頗高且享有相當信譽的歷史報刊),袁國勇博士—一位港大傑出的病毒學專家,與龍振邦博士一起刊登了一篇兩位合著的投書〈大流行緣起武漢 十七年教訓盡忘〉(https://bit.ly/2vJx7SC

投書文當中,袁、龍兩位博士聲稱:「武漢新冠狀病毒乃中國人劣質文化之產物,濫捕濫食野生動物、不人道對待動物、不尊重生命,為滿足各種欲望而繼續食野味,中國人陋習劣根才是病毒之源。」

跨種傳播(譯註:俗稱「人畜共通傳染」)的諸般問題固然是廣大社會關心的焦點議題,可是我們豈能如此讓公共討論淪為一種藉口,進而對於殖民種族歧視的復甦視若無睹呢?那些諳知十九世紀以降的中國近代史的人都明白,「民族劣根性」論述確實帶有殖民種族歧視歷史無法擦去的烙印。

在一篇寫於1964年的學術論文裡,丹特‧蒲索(Dante Puzzo)早已總結指出:「種族歧視根植於兩種預設:其一為身體特徵與道德特質之間存在對應關係;其二則是人類可以分為優、劣不同種根。」(Dante Puzzo, “Racism and the Western Tradition,” Journal of the History of Ideas 25 (1964), pp. 579-86, p. 579).

畢竟,「民族劣根性」的概念,與優生學改造計畫與殖民階序關係等種族主義思想之間本來就有無法否認的關連。它因此於當代科學與公共論述裡完全沒有一席之地。
然而,袁、龍兩位博士讓種族歧視的歷史詞彙復活並冠以科學與學府名望的象徵性價值,不但嚴重傷害了香港大學的校譽,同時也對香港與全球公民社會造成破壞。

袁、龍兩位博士翌日發表的公開道歉,僅是針對若干不具名的表達錯誤與事實錯誤等問題表達了模糊悔意。至於他們那樣非專業、非科學、甚為火爆的修辭學導致殖民種族歧視式的民族性論述復活一事,偏偏沒有任何撤回可言。不但沒有具體撤回,也更沒有為此一無法否認是殖民主義種族歧視的表達作出道歉,反而還間接加倍肯定原有的立場:「他們稱,該文與政治無關,旨在提出尊重真相、移風易俗。」(見明報港聞〈「追求科學真理 無意捲入政治」 龍振邦袁國勇撤回文章〉: https://bit.ly/2Uf6VbY

大學負有特殊的社會責任,一邊需要啟動有關諸如跨種傳播等兼具社會與科學兩種關懷的公共辯論,一邊需要對於昔日種族歧視的巧言亂德堅決抗拒。

基於該校自身的殖民史,香港大學決不能姑息殖民種族歧視在任何條件下復活。更何況,袁博士所隸屬的李嘉誠醫學院正是1910年香港西醫書院改組建校成為香港大學的前身,是個別具象徵意義的機構。

基於這些歷史根源以及香港大學對於香港乃至全球公民社會非常寶貴的貢獻,

我們懇請:
一、 類似袁博士那樣在校外助長殖民種族歧視復活的教職員,香港大學校長室應針對其言論公開説明大學的立場、支持程度以及理據基礎。
二、 建立諮詢委員會,以查究並建檔見證港大—這間具有殖民根源且廣受敬佩的學府當中,有哪些殖民種族歧視活生生的歷史。

小註:儘管2020年03月22日已經發佈了一次〈聯署〉的更新資訊,香港的傳媒還是執意將〈聯署〉的內容,尤其是其具體要求相關的部分,加以嚴重曲解。本聯署並未呼籲港大「成立委員會調查袁國勇」,更無意要求校方「重新考慮他的聘任」(除非往後意外發現袁國勇教授長期採取橫向歧視或任何其他類型的歧視的言論或行動)。本聯署所要求的反而是讓香港大學採取具體行動去提高校內外的認知水準,特別是有關於該校的殖民歷史以及該歷史與全球各地其他英語學府類似而刻在接受矚目與探查的殖民歷史之間的可能關連。

本聯署的結尾之處原本附上以下這句話:「倘若有需要的話,在尚待進一步探查的前提下,我們才呼籲校方重新考量袁博士的聘任案。」以上這句話並未列入〈聯署〉的具體訴求。2020年03月22日的聯署更新還清楚交代過本聯署並不支持「調查袁國勇」。然而,香港傳媒還是一直扭曲事實創造假新聞。

身為本聯署的發起者之我,對於以上這句話因為表達不夠清楚的緣故,所以引起了嚴重誤解一事,感到非常遺憾。因此,本人再次隆重澄清,本聯署並非要求港大校長辦公室成立委員會調查袁國勇及重新考慮他的聘任案。

本聯署要求港大:一、面對其自身的殖民史;二、更加努力去建立相關的知識資料庫並在校內外多多宣揚這段歷史;三、揭開這段歷史當代的延續與可能的後遺症;四、對外說明校方對於教職員在校外公開場合上表達橫向歧視等言論的支持度。

耑此敬致 香港大學張翔校長先生



Today: Donglai is counting on you

Donglai SHI needs your help with “President's Office University of Hong Kong: Call on HKU to Investigate and Condemn Colonial Racism”. Join Donglai and 854 supporters today.