Hong Kong’s chief secretary Carrie Lam met with vice chancellors and representatives of eight universities on Monday, a week before a planned class boycott by students seeking democratic reforms in the city.
Lam and the university representatives both said issues related to tertiary education were discussed at the meeting, Ming Pao Daily News reported.
The representatives were quoted as saying that Lam did not exert pressure on them as to how they should deal with the week-long class boycott that will start on Sept. 22.
Some scholars have, however, cast doubts about the purpose of the meeting, saying that it couldn’t be a mere coincidence that the meeting was held on the eve of the class boycott.
The meeting is said to have lasted over an hour. Joseph Sung, vice chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said it was a non-official meeting and that Lam did not exert pressure on anyone. The participants only spent just over ten minutes to exchange views on class boycott, and there were no concrete discussions on ways to handle the situation, he said.
University of Hong Kong vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson said tertiary education issues, including school places and residential places, were the key topics of the meeting.
Tony Chan, vice chancellor of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said it was only reasonable that class boycott was discussed in the meeting. He did not reveal who brought out the topic.
Meanwhile, Lam reiterated that the government will not intervene with the administration of tertiary institutions. She said it is important that any action by the students is carried out in a legal and sensible manner and that the protests must not affect those who do not take part.
Secretary for Transport and Housing and former Secretary for Education Anthony Cheung said university students’ actions should be respected as it is a peaceful way to voice opposition. He agreed with the Education Bureau’s views that secondary school students should not participate in class boycott.
Political commentator Ivan Choy from the Chinese University of Hong Kong said it couldn’t be a coincidence that a meeting like this is held just days before the class boycott. Legislator Chan Kan Lok said Lam should come out and clarify the reasons behind the meeting at a sensitive time like this.
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