Edward Leong is due to step down as chairman of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) council on Nov. 6, along with five members whose terms expire.
These departures could lead to a major overhaul of the council.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is reportedly set to appoint Executive Councilor Arthur Li, an incumbent council member, to succeed Leong.
If the reports are true, we could have another howling controversy on our hands.
The HKU Alumni Concern Group called a press conference on Oct. 25, in which it gave three key reasons Arthur Li is not a suitable candidate.
Reason 1: High-handedness
Dubbed the “education czar” when he headed the Education and Manpower Bureau from 2002 to 2007, Arthur Li was notorious for his ruthless suppression of the autonomy of our tertiary institutions.
He once tried to force the Chinese University into merging with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
On another occasion, he threatened to get Fanny Law, then permanent secretary for education and manpower, to cut student quotas for the Hong Kong Institute of Education unless it agreed to merge with the Chinese University.
He also demanded that the institute reprimand lecturers who opposed the plan or pay the price.
Reason 2: Grudge against HKU
Arthur Li is widely known in the education sector for his grudge against HKU.
In a July interview, HKU pro vice chancellor Cheng Kai-ming told Ming Pao Daily that Li had asked donors not to make any contribution to the university during his term as education and manpower chief.
Reason 3: Conflict of interest
As we all know, Arthur Li and incumbent pro chancellor David Li come from the same prominent family and both serve in the family business.
It takes very little to figure out why people would find this arrangement inappropriate.
Unless Leung Chun-ying intends to declare war on higher education and deepen social divisions, he should not appoint such a controversial figure as Arthur Li to be the next HKU council chairman for the sake of the long-term interest of the university.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 29.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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