Date
23 March 2017
Representatives of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and student unions at eight universities announce they will be holding referendums on the role of the city's chief executive as chancellor. Photo: DBC
Representatives of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and student unions at eight universities announce they will be holding referendums on the role of the city's chief executive as chancellor. Photo: DBC

8 universities to hold student referendums on chancellor rule

Hong Kong’s chief executive sits as chancellor at all the city’s public universities under their respective ordinances, but student activists are now trying to get a show of support from students for the abolishment of that rule.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) is coordinating student referendums at eight universities with the aim of amending the ordinances, which also empower the chief executive as chancellor to appoint council members, Apple Daily reported Monday.

The referendums, to be held between next month and February, come after the University of Hong Kong council rejected the appointment of former law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun as a pro vice chancellor in a controversial vote Sept. 29.

Student unions at HKU, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Baptist University, Lingnan University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Institute of Education and Open University of Hong Kong will each hold a referendum.

Before holding a referendum, each participating student union will seek the opinions of students about the need and means to amend their university’s ordinance, including the possibility of removing the chief executive as chancellor and increasing the proportion of student and staff representatives on governing bodies.

Alan Wong Ka-fai, a deputy secretary general of the HKFS, said the referendums will consolidate students’ voices and form a basis for further protests, as their results will be binding to the student unions.

The government has turned the universities’ councils and boards into a means to distribute political rewards and engage in political retaliation, Wong said.

He said students will use the referendums to fight back.

Wong said the occupation of campuses is likely if a class boycott is launched based on the results of the referendums, and it could be more intense than the one on Sept. 22 last year in support of the pro-democracy movement.

Barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a former legislator, said in an RTHK interview Sunday the HKU council’s rejection of Chan was a disgrace to the university’s alumni and showed that the political struggle has extended deeply into society.

However, Tong said he did not believe any university council member can be controlled by Beijing.

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TL/AC/FL

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