23 July 2019
Members of the HKU students' boycott committee hold a news conference to announce details of the protest. Photos: HKEJ, Apple Daily
Members of the HKU students' boycott committee hold a news conference to announce details of the protest. Photos: HKEJ, Apple Daily

HKU students set to boycott classes to demand university reforms

Students at the University of Hong Kong plan to boycott their classes for one week starting on Wednesday to demand an overhaul of the school’s governing council.

They decided on the move during an assembly on Sunday night after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appointed former education minister and council member Arthur Li Kwok-cheung the council’s new chairman from Jan. 1, Apple Daily reported on Tuesday.

Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, a member of the students’ boycott committee, said the protest will continue at least until Jan. 26, when the new council is scheduled to hold a regular meeting.

The students accused the council of not showing any willingness to listen to their demands, including the formation of a task force to review the council’s structure, as has been done in the Hong Kong Baptist University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

They said the chief executive should not be the university’s chancellor by default, at least half of the council members should be appointed from inside the university, and the council members currently appointed by the chief executive should instead be picked by the council itself.

Last year a nominating committee recommended former HKU law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun as the university’s pro vice chancellor, but the council turned down his appointment.

Li was among the council members who rejected Chan, a leaked recording of the council’s closed-door deliberations revealed.

Students believe Chan was rejected because of his association with HKU law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a leader of the pro-democracy protests in 2014.

Boycott committee member Wong Chun-kit said students are taking the action not just to target Li, who he said is only a puppet, but to push for reforms of the current system as they share deep concerns about political interference in the autonomy of the university.

Calling on university staff members to join the protest, Wong said the boycott is only the first step, and any escalation, such as blocking campus buildings or storming council meetings, will be left to the decision of the committee.

Dr. Cheung Sing-wai, chairman of HKU Academic Staff Association, expressed his support for the class boycott.

A university spokesperson said classes will be held as usual during the boycott, adding that both students and teachers have to respect other people’s opinions and freedom while taking responsibility for their own actions.

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