Peter Mathieson, vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), has dismissed concerns that the appointment of Beijing loyalist Arthur Li to the university’s governing body could lead to erosion of autonomy for the city’s premier tertiary education institution.
Mathieson said he believes that Li, who is a member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council, is well qualified to join the university board, given his wealth of experience in the education, medical and political sectors.
The university chief added that Li can help promote healthy discussion on important issues by joining the HKU governing body, Ming Pao Daily News reported Monday.
Mathieson said he is confident that Li will cooperate and work toward protecting the interests of HKU.
He was responding to concerns expressed by HKU Students’ Union chairman Fung King-yan and some others that Li’s appointment would hamper the autonomy of the university.
While acknowledging that Li is known to have strong opinions on some issues, Mathieson said it will be only good if members of HKU’s governing council engage in healthy debates.
In other comments, the vice-chancellor said that he has no say, nor does he have any inside information, as to who will be elected chairman of the university council at the end of the year.
Fung has said that Li, although highly experienced, is not a suitable candidate to take on the role of the council chairman.
When Li was the Secretary for Education and Manpower in the Hong Kong government, he had put forward controversial merger proposals for the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Institute of Education.
Fung said such moves showed that Li was trying to manage tertiary education institutions with a commercial management mindset, instead of taking actions with the interests of students and teaching staff in mind.
Li is also said to have once suggested that the students who sought to take part in the Occupy pro-democracy protests last year should withdraw from their studies.
Fung said the HKUSU is discussing ways to protest the appointment of Li to the university’s governing body.
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