23 October 2016
Newly leaked audio clip will only add to Arthur Li's reputation as a hardliner on matters related to Hong Kong University. Photo: HKEJ
Newly leaked audio clip will only add to Arthur Li's reputation as a hardliner on matters related to Hong Kong University. Photo: HKEJ

New tape shows Arthur Li threatening legal action on students

A new audio recording leaked online shows University of Hong Kong (HKU) Council member Arthur Li threatening legal action against students who barged into a meeting in July.

In the clip, which was uploaded to a Taiwan-based internet forum late Thursday, Li is heard saying that he can take civil action against the HKU for failing to protect the Council members, and that he can also take action against the students who stormed into a university governing body meeting.

He was obviously referring to the incidents on July 28, when a group of students stormed a HKU Council meeting to protest a delay in the appointment of Johannes Chan as the pro-vice chancellor.

In the ten-minute voice recording, which was apparently made during a meeting on Aug. 25, Li could be heard demanding disciplinary action against the students, Apple Daily reported. 

According to the recording and transcript available online, Li asked Steven J. Cannon, HKU’s executive vice-president, if students who charged into Council meeting room on July 28 could be identified.

The comment came after Cannon reported to the Council that he has gathered photographic evidence of incident.

Cannon said the students involved could have committed multiple offences, such as disorder in public place, unlawful assembly, assault and false imprisonment.

Questioned about the revelations from the latest audio leak, Li said late Thursday night, via a spokesperson, that anyone who has violated the law will have to be held responsible.

According to the recording, Li recommended that the July 28 matter must be handed over to the HKU’s senior management team headed by vice chancellor Peter Mathieson, so that students involved could be identified and subsequently punished, and a report presented to the Council.

Li said his message is very clear. If the matter is not resolved properly, Council members can take civil action against the students and also against the university.

When Council chairman Leong Chee-hung attempted to reply, he was quickly interrupted by Li with these comments: “I can file a civil case against HKU, and I can also file civil and criminal cases against the students.”

Leong tried to calm down Li, saying that a complaint against a student was being followed up. Li said it is unfair to single out just one student.

Leong then said that the next step would be to identify the students using other channels, such as their Facebook accounts.

Hong Kong University Students’ Union chairman Billy Fung King-yan said he believes that storming of a Council meeting should not be deemed as a criminal offence.

If Li wishes to press charges, Fung said he would welcome such a move if Li could file cases on an individual basis.

The student leader said he is willing to shoulder the responsibilities, whatever they are.

Legislator Ip Kin-yuen, who is the convenor of an HKU alumni concern group, said the leaked recording has once again showed how menacing Li was as he urged the Council chairman to ensure disciplinary action on the students.

It is shocking and that Li had even threatened to sue the university, Ip said.

“What he has said makes people wonder if safeguarding the interest of HKU was ever his top priority,” Ip added. “What would his response be if he was cornered in the same fashion as the chairman of the Council?”

Ip stressed that the concern group has never requested the Council to disclose details of its meetings, but only the reasons for rejecting the appointment of former law dean Chan as the new pro-vice-chancellor.

Asked whether he thinks the students’ actions on July 28 violated criminal laws, Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal lecturer at HKU’s Department of Law, wondered why anyone would want to put the criminal law to such use.

Cheung pointed out that it is HKU’s tradition to take a lenient and accommodating view on students.

“We should engage in constructive discussions, rather than try to win over others with authority and law,” he told Apple Daily.

“If the students have crossed the line, we could teach them through dialogue,” Cheung said, adding that it will be a huge problem if Council members do not honor such culture.

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