Date
19 August 2017
Joseph Chan (front row, third from left) and other signatories to the petition from various tertiary institutions in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ
Joseph Chan (front row, third from left) and other signatories to the petition from various tertiary institutions in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

1,000 petition against govt interference in academic affairs

About 1,000 professors and students have signed a petition expressing concern about alleged interference with academic freedom by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Monday.

They called for a review of the present system of chancellors to prevent government interference in the autonomy of colleges and universities.

The petition comes after several incidents in which Leung has been accused of overstepping his role as the chancellor of publicly funded universities.

The system is inherited from the colonial era, when governors were appointed to the position, essentially a figurehead for the institution.

The latest allegation is that Leung overruled the University of Hong Kong’s decision to grant an honorary degree to Henry Tang Ying-yen, who was Leung’s rival in the 2012 election for chief executive, Ming Pao Daily reported Sunday.

“The previous chief executives and governors exercised restraint and remained solely figureheads,” said HKU political scientist Professor Joseph Chan Cho-wai, one of the initiators of the petition.

“But the city’s chief right now is a chief executive who would exhaust every power at his disposal … There’s a need to review the whole chancellor system.”

Leung earlier denied allegations that he phoned members of the HKU council in an attempt to block the university’s former dean of law, Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, from becoming its next pro-vice-chancellor.

Chan, reportedly the leading candidate for the job, was one of the outspoken professors who backed students during the pro-democratic Occupy movement late last year.

Translation by Vey Wong

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