HKU vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson (馬斐森) defended the appointment of Executive Council (行政會議) member Arthur Li Kwok-cheung (李國章) to a seat on the University of Hong Kong’s council (香港大學校務委員會 ), saying the former education minister is well qualified.
“I have never worked directly with him. And I say I look forward to having a practical relationship with him,” said Mathieson. “I think he is known for his strong opinions, and in many ways that’s healthy because then we can have healthy debates about important issues.”
Li was education chief between 2002 and 2007 after serving six years as the vice-chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (香港中文大學).
He controversially suggested a merger between CUHK and the University of Science and Technology (香港科技大學).
Mathieson dismissed suggestions that Li, now tipped to be the council’s next chairman, would undermine HKU’s autonomy.
However, education-sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen (葉建源) said the appointment was an ominous move, especially if Li is later named chairman. “It is not a good move at all,” he said.
“[University leaders should be] someone who is respected, it should be someone who is capable of leading the university in defence of its core values.”
Ip said it would be a tragedy if Li became chairman. The government is assigning people from Chief Executive (行政長官) Leung Chun-ying’s (梁振英) camp to manage universities, he added.
HKU’s student union posted articles on Facebook that detailed Li’s controversial moments in office.
HKU’s governing body has been in the headlines in recent months, mainly over claims the appointment of former law dean professor Johannes Chan Man-mun (陳文敏) as its new pro vice chancellor has been blocked.
Leung earlier this month appointed Exco member Andrew Liao Cheung-sing (廖長城) to become HKUST council chairman, which drew criticism from the Hong Kong Federation of Students (學聯).
Other than the City University of Hong Kong (香港城市大學) and Lingnan University (嶺南大學), the terms of the heads of councils or board of directors of five other universities will expire this year. Leong Che-hung’s (梁智鴻) term as HKU council chairman will expire in November.
(The Standard, Kevin Cheng, 23 March, 2015)