Delays in the appointment of a pro vice chancellor for the University of Hong Kong (HKU) are setting a bad precedent and exposing the process to political interference, according to a former newspaper editor.
Kevin Lau, a former chief editor of Ming Pao Daily, accused university council chairman Edward Leong of dragging his feet over Johannes Chan, former dean of the HKU law school, who has been recommended for the position.
In a Ming Pao op-ed on Monday, Lau warned Leong not to set a bad precedent by allowing personnel appointments to be dictated by politics.
Lau said Leong persuaded Chan to apply for the job in 2013 and the search committee endorsed him that year.
Chan was supposed to begin his tenure in March 2015, Lau said.
In December, the university council widened an investigation into alleged impropriety in the law faculty’s handling of donations under Chan.
Pro-government representatives on the council were not happy with the interim report on the investigation, calling the findings “mild”, reports said.
They pressed for an audit committee to conduct further inquiry.
Lau said the final report of the audit committee criticized Chan’s handling of the donations, saying it did not meet the university’s “expected standard”.
The report held Chan responsible, along with Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai, an HKU associate law professor, and Robert Chung, director of the university’s public opinion program.
Chung ran a referendum last year that was spearheaded by Tai’s civil disobedience movement, which went on to play a key role in the 79-day democracy protest.
Lau, a 1987 graduate of the HKU law school, accused the audit committee of arbitrary standards, saying the guidelines on “expected standard” were inserted at a later stage.
He said the council refused to release the final report to all concerned parties.
Meanwhile, Leong failed to inform the public about Chan’s status, saying only that the process was not complete, adding to the confusion regarding his appointment, Lau said.
Lau demanded a public clarification from Leong.
Leong, who is traveling abroad, said several candidates are being considered and urged the public not to speculate so as not to prejudice the selection process.
Leong said he is not part of the search committee and would refrain from commenting on its work.
He did say that the committee is taking a long time to appoint a pro vice chancellor, adding he is hoping for an update.
Chan refused to comment.
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