Baptist University president Roland Chin Tai-hong announced on Tuesday he would step down after his five-year tenure ends next August but stressed his decision had nothing to do with Hong Kong’s ongoing protest crisis that has placed varsity dons under pressure and turned campuses into battlegrounds.
Chin, 68, revealed his decision to not opt for a second term in a letter to students, staff and alumni, explaining the only reason he had chosen to retire after assuming the position more than four years ago was because he had passed normal retirement age.
“I chose to retire not because of the current political turmoil. On the contrary, I almost changed my mind and decided to stay on longer because of the recent social unrest. But my family said no. I’m retiring not because of the pressure or the workload,” he said.
Chin, who assumed office as the fifth president and vice-chancellor of Baptist University on September 1, 2015, took the helm from Albert Chan Sun-chi, who also served one term and retired at the age of 64.
He is also chair professor of computer science and previously served as provost and deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Hong Kong from 2010 to 2015.
Like other university heads in the city, Chin had come under repeated pressure from his students to condemn alleged police violence in the citywide protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill. He and the other university chiefs had to meet their students to discuss the issue.
Hundreds of tertiary students have been arrested since the unrest broke out in early June, and like other institutions, Baptist University’s Kowloon Tong campus was vandalised.
Chin said in his letter that it was natural to have conflicting views in a diverse community.
“One thing I have been particularly touched by is the great resilience, care for each other, and love of the university that has been shown by our students, colleagues and alumni, each doing it in his or her own way, but all with a common purpose that we all share. It is through the shared purpose but diverse means of achieving it that we grow and mature as a community,” he wrote.
Chin also highlighted his work during his tenure including speeding up internationalisation, boosting teaching quality, completion of the Campus of Creativity with a hostel complex and creative hub in 2023, as well as the proposed redevelopment of its Ho Sin Hang campus.
He said the protests might slow down momentum a little, but he had confidence that university development would “progress in leaps and bounds” as he would help pave the way for his successor.
Clement Chen Cheng-jen, chairman of the university’s governing council, said in a statement that Chin had built up an unstoppable growth momentum. He said the council had already initiated a global search for a new president and vice-chancellor with details to be released soon.
But council members and the student union said they had only heard about Chin’s decision to retire on Tuesday although some were not too surprised.
University provost Clayton Mackenzie, a council member, said he felt saddened about Chin’s departure, and that the president had done as well as anyone could be expected to do in handling student affairs related to the protests.
“He has constantly sought to support students in whatever situation they find themselves, but also to uphold the great values of the university,” Mackenzie said.
Student union president Keith Fong Chung-yin, who also sits on the governing council and had been arrested twice during protests, gave Chin a “marginal pass” for his performance, as he had listened to students’ concerns and provided legal support for those detained.
Fong said it was relatively late for Chin to announce his retirement, as his predecessor had done so a year before he quit. He said students would expect Chin’s successor to be locally born or raised to better connect with students. Chin was born in Macau and raised in Hong Kong.
Another council member, paediatrician David Lee Ka-yan, said Chin’s successor would have to be tough.
“In how many places do universities have to face something like this?” Lee said, referring to the ongoing protests. “It’s a new challenge for anyone.”
Meanwhile, City University announced last Saturday that it would strengthen security, saying it had learned from reliable sources that its Kowloon Tong campus could become the next target for protesters.