Hong Kong University president Peter Mathieson believes the pressure on him and others who had backed the appointment of Johannes Chan as pro-vice-chancellor was “orchestrated” by some political elements.
Mathieson told Reuters that his personal emails had been hacked and that some had been published in pro-Beijing media.
He said he cannot rule out the possibility that Beijing was behind the episode.
The remarks came before the HKU governing council met for a final vote on Chan.
In a 12-8 majority vote Tuesday, the council rejected the appointment of Chan as pro-vice-chancellor, drawing criticism from the academic community.
Pro-Beijing members in the council are believed to have voted down Chan’s appointment in the secret ballot.
A government think-tank had earlier been lobbying council members to vote against Chan, sparking outrage among thousands of Chan’s HKU alumni supporters and academics.
“Universities regard themselves as paragons of free speech and freedom of expression and a place where different views can be celebrated and used to the advantage of society,” Mathieson told Reuters.
“I think my job and the job of our colleagues is to do our damnedest to see those principles are protected.”
Meanwhile, Chan, speaking on radio after the Tuesday vote, blamed political interference for his failed appointment, and sought an explanation from the council on the reason for its decision.
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