16 February 2019
HKU alumni, faculty and staff will meet on Sept. 1 in an effort to preserve the university's autonomy. Photo: HKU
HKU alumni, faculty and staff will meet on Sept. 1 in an effort to preserve the university's autonomy. Photo: HKU

Alumni call ‘referendum’ to defend autonomy of HKU

Given that the University of Hong Kong council has repeatedly delayed the appointment of the fifth pro vice chancellor on the ridiculous grounds of having to wait for the advice of a deputy vice chancellor who has not even been hired, the HKU convocation is summoning a special conference on Sept. 1 to discuss the issue.

Under the constitution and rules of the convocation, all HKU graduates, professors, chair professors, lecturers, instructors and administrative personnel are members of the body.

During the conference, the 180,000-strong HKU convocation vote on several motions regarding the recent controversy surrounding the appointment of key personnel of HKU and its academic freedom.

Once these motions are passed, they will become the official stance of the convocation.

So as to uphold the academic freedom of HKU, the HKU Alumni Concern Group to which I belong has tabled two sets of motions:

Motion 2:
a. The HKU convocation urges the council to confirm the appointment of the fifth pro vice chancellor based on the recommendation made by the recruitment committee within 30 days in accordance with standard procedures and due process, or else the HKU council must provide justification for their decision not to.
b. The HKU convocation is in favour of reforming the existing council system and amending the University of Hong Kong Ordinance to abolish the arrangement under which the chief executive always serves as the ex-officio chancellor of HKU.
c. If the above motions are not passed, we should then call for an amendment to the University of Hong Kong Ordinance to make sure the role of the chief executive as the chancellor of HKU is of a ceremonial nature only.
d. The HKU convocation should set up a task force to implement its resolutions.

Motion 4:
a. The position of the chairman of the HKU council must be held by someone acceptable to both the HKU staff and students.

Motion 2 is in fact the embodiment of the demands raised by the 1,536 alumni who published a co-signed letter in newspapers earlier in response to the relentless attacks made by pro-Beijing newspapers against Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun and to the continued delay of the appointment to this key position by the HKU council.

So far the council still owes the public an explanation as to why it was not following standard procedures and long-established tradition on the appointment.

It is not a matter of who eventually gets the job but rather a matter of principle and procedural justice, and as alumni of HKU, we are under an obligation to uphold these principles, upon which the century-old reputation of our beloved university is built.

As far as Motion 4 is concerned, since Edward Leong Che-hung’s term as chairman of the HKU Council will come to an end in November this year, we demand that Hong Kong’s chief executive not appoint anyone who is unacceptable to HKU staff and students to succeed Leong, since every decision made by the HKU council chairman, along with his fellow members, will have far-reaching implications for the university.

If our motions are passed on Sept. 1, it means we have a strong public mandate to demand the confirmation of the appointment of the fifth pro vice chancellor by the HKU council in accordance with standard procedures as soon as possible, as well as the reform of the existing system so that the city’s chief executive will no longer serve as the ex-officio chancellor of HKU.

In the face of a critical external political environment, we are deeply concerned that the public might lose their faith in the governance of HKU, which has remained the most prestigious and respected tertiary education institution in the city for over a century.

We are even more worried that what happened to HKU may not be an isolated incident, and that once HKU falls, the government under Leung Chun-ying will continue to get its claws into other universities, and the autonomy and academic freedom on our university campuses promised under the Basic Law will be on the line.

I urge every HKU graduate to attend the special conference on Sept. 1.

If you can’t show up, please authorize another alumnus whom you know well to vote on your behalf.

This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 13.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Legislative Council member from the education sector

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