Enriching body and mind—potable water and ancient ships
Issues surrounding water connected two diverse events last week at CityU in new and interesting ways. On the one hand, we were celebrating historic maritime culture; on the other we were investigating contemporary concerns about health. It was an interesting mix of enriching the mind and paying attention to physical health.
First off, we coordinated with others the promotion of the "Rebuilding the Tong-an Ships New Media Art Exhibition" at CityU, and we welcomed Year 1 students joining us for the new academic year. The exhibition is important for two main reasons. It not only promotes Chinese heritage in general, it reflects on Hong Kong's past, too. The event proved highly popular, with more than 300 people attending the opening ceremony. But, much to my regret, I didn't see many local Hong Kong students.
The Hong Kong connection to the event is very strong. If we talk about Tong-an ships, we have to mention Cheung Po-tsai, a well-known figure in Hong Kong history. His longevity matches that of the Tong-an ships. In fact, historical data on this 19th-century pirate are kept at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. There is another link. The director of the National Palace Museum, Fung Ming-chu, was born in Kowloon. She graduated from the History Department at National Taiwan University in the early 1970s. It is a commendable personal feat for her to become the Director of the National Palace Museum. We thank her for her kind support: she made sure all the Tong-an materials were safely shipped from Taipei in time for the launch at CityU on 14 August.
The event was also significant because it reveals how new media art technology, a niche specialty at CityU, can bring to life history, in this case the sea-faring culture found along the East Asian coast at the beginning of the 19th century and the development of the Qing navy in that era.
The day after the opening ceremony, everyone was getting ready for the new cohort of students. I was buried in thought, wondering how I could weave the Tong-an Ship exhibition and the story of Cheung Po-tsai into my welcoming address to the new students. Suddenly four students rushed on to the stage and presented me with half a bottle of what they claimed to be lead-contaminated water. They invited me to drink it. I took the bottle out of courtesy and learned later that they were concerned about contaminated water, a hot issue in Hong Kong over the summer.
Due to community concerns over the quality of drinking water in Hong Kong since June, I asked colleagues in administration at CityU to investigate. I specifically requested more than a month ago that colleagues in the Campus Development and Facilities Office assess drinking water on campus.
After CDFO's findings were released, a task force was set up to further guarantee water safety. This task force, headed by Mr Sunny Lee Wai-kwong, Vice-President (Administration), includes Mr Wong Ka-yu, Director of CDFO, Professor Michael Lam Hon-wah from the Department of Biology and Chemistry, and two student representatives, Lee Jeuk-lung and Lau Ka-hei.
After these initial investigations, the task force concluded that there were no signs indicating that the drinking water on campus would adversely affect one's health. Based on that conclusion, we issued a University Announcement on 15 August that stated: "CityU strives to ensure drinking water safety". In addition, to further safeguard against any possible contamination, the task force decided that filters should be installed in the pantry and drinking fountains in the Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre. I would also like to note that a more comprehensive check will be conducted at the students' residence and staff quarters as well as in the academic buildings.
On the surface, the Tong-an Ship exhibition seems unconnected to the safety of drinking water on campus. But the two represent essential concerns over the health of the body and the soul.
I hope our students will give due attention to enriching the mind in addition to promoting physical health.
18 August, 2015