Date
21 October 2017
Professor Johannes Chan says future academic appointments will be subject to political pressure if outside interference is allowed to continue. Photo: HKEJ
Professor Johannes Chan says future academic appointments will be subject to political pressure if outside interference is allowed to continue. Photo: HKEJ

Top academic lashes at pro-Beijing media before key appointment

A senior Hong Kong academic is hitting back at his pro-Beijing critics ahead of his expected appointment as an executive vice president of the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Professor Johannes Chan called recent attacks by pro-Beijing newspapers Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po “crazy”, saying they were timed to derail his impending appointment, Ming Pao Daily reported Tuesday.

Representatives of Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao were not available to comment.

Chan, former dean of the HKU law faculty, is awaiting confirmation as executive vice president responsible for academic staffing and resources, the report said.

Earlier, the two newspapers criticized the quality of law faculty research on Chan’s watch.

In turn, Chan said the criticism was an attempt by the newspapers and their pro-Beijing backers to meddle in the affairs of the university and suppress outspoken scholars.

If this sort of interference is allowed to continue, all academic appointments in Hong Kong will be subject to political pressure, he said.

Chan questioned how pro-Beijing newspapers became privy to internal discussions of supposedly confidential information.

“This is definitely a case of serious intervention in academic affairs and free speech if senior officials of the government are involved,” Chan said.

The university grants committee declined to comment on whether it gave the information to education officials or the chief executive’s office.

Meanwhile, an HKU spokesperson said Chan’s appointment will be announced “when related procedures are completed”.

Chan refused to say whether he had been recommended for the job or invited to interview for it.

Reports earlier said Chan had been endorsed for the post in December but the recommendation was not taken up by the school board.

Chan defended his tenure as law dean, saying he had helped raise the global standing of the faculty.

When he left office, the HKU law faculty was No. 18 in the QS World University Rankings, he said.

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