University of HK chief Zhang Xiang vows ‘zero tolerance’ towards sexual harassment after postgraduate student’s Facebook article detailing problems with tutor

14-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The president of a Hong Kong university at the centre of sexual harassment claims has vowed to take a “zero-tolerance” approach to molesters, saying that supervisory staff who fail to prevent such attacks will also be held accountable.

In a letter to students, alumni and school staff on Sunday, University of Hong Kong president and vice chancellor Professor Zhang Xiang said that an immediate investigation had been launched into the allegations.

“As an institution that is committed to promoting equal opportunity and, therefore, takes a zero-tolerance stance towards sexual harassment, the university finds this allegation very disturbing,” said the letter by Zhang, head of the oldest university in the city.

“In response, my management team and I have decided to launch an immediate investigation.”

The letter was issued after a Malaysian woman posted a long article on Facebook about how she was harassed by an unidentified part-time tutor at Prince Philip Dental Hospital under the university, when she was doing a postgraduate programme at the faculty from 2015 to 2018.

According to her account, the tutor made inappropriate physical contact with her. She said she was also verbally harassed.

The behaviour went on repeatedly in the first two years of her studies, and the gestures included touching her arm, shoulder and back, leering at her chest and placing a red packet on her arm with its edge poking her chest, she said.

The woman claimed the tutor had once said to her: “Who told you to look for single men? You could always find married men.”

Zhang wrote that his university, founded in 1911, was committed to fostering a safe, inclusive environment for its staff and students. The school opposed discrimination and harassment of any kind, he said.

“Most importantly, staff members who hold supervisory positions must take all necessary steps in order to prevent discrimination and harassment, and supervisors who fail to act will be held accountable,” Zhang said.

“Members of the university community can also do their part to help ensure a safe campus by responding promptly to instances of sexual harassment, which includes encouraging victims to come forward and supporting them.”

In January, the Equal Opportunities Commission published a survey that found almost one in four university students in the city had been sexually harassed. Fewer than 3 per cent filed a complaint as most were unsure of the definition of an offence.

A lack of sex education in secondary and primary schools had made young men and women more vulnerable to harassment, the watchdog said.


Category: Hong Kong

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