22 October 2016
Alfred Chan (left) sends a "threatening" email to 
Prof. Petula Ho, who had asked him to step down as EOC chief. Photos: Youtube, RTHK
Alfred Chan (left) sends a "threatening" email to Prof. Petula Ho, who had asked him to step down as EOC chief. Photos: Youtube, RTHK

New EOC chairman embroiled in new controversy

How long do you think Alfred Chan Cheung-ping will last as chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission?

At the rate controversies are hounding him, his first month in office looks like it could be his last month.

In his first week on the job, political parties and equal rights groups called on Chan to resign after it was revealed that he had received money from a Philippines-based state university that had been caught in a diploma mill scandal, and failed to declare it while he was working at Lingnan University.

Two weeks after, Chan finds himself in another rumpus, this time involving a case of name-dropping that appears to be a veiled threat to an outspoken critic.

Apparently, Chan sent an email to Petula Ho Sik-ying, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s social work and social administration department, who had asked him to step down twice following his appointment as EOC on April 11.

In the email, Chan wrote: “I have been working closely with X (a fellow professor), Y (another fellow professor), Z (yet another fellow professor) and T (Ho’s supervisor) in your department, and I hope they can take me from a different perspective.”

That puzzled Professor Ho, a respected activist in promoting academic freedom and sex education.

Ho asked Chan, a former social work professor at Lingnan with whom she had no previous contact, if he would terribly mind her making the email public. Chan declined.

Still, Ho posted Chan’s email on her Facebook page, with the following queries:

“1. Why does he tell me he is working closely with my colleagues?

“2. Why does he mention my supervisor’s name? Does he want to say “hello” to my supervisor?

“3. He does not only know my colleagues, but he knows so many people in the field of social work. If I was serious about running for legislator in the social work constituency, would I be negatively affected?

“4. He is a high-ranking official who knows many senior people at HKU as well as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Would I be like Professor Johannes Chan as far as my promotion is concerned?

Ho continued: “If this is not an open email, how should I react to this? How can I expect him to understand that his so-called personal email is in fact throwing a challenge at academic freedom? With this man as the Equal Opportunities Commission chairman, what can Hong Kong people say? I am speechless.”

Ho had earlier slammed Chan for his comments on the rights of sexual minorities, as well as his job at the Tarlac State University in the Philippines.

On his first day as EOC chief, Chan was accused of lying for saying that he had declared to Lingnan University, his former employer, that he had supervised a doctoral thesis for Anna Tang King-yung, a pro-establishment district councillor in Wan Chai, and denying that he had received any payment for his services.

But after Lingnan said it had not received any declaration from Chan about his work as thesis supervisor for a student of Tarlac State University, Chan said he had just forgotten to declare it and that he had indeed received HK$8,000 for his services.

It was actually Lifelong College that had invited Chan to supervise Tang’s doctoral thesis with Tarlac State University.

It will be recalled that Lifelong College had been accused of helping students fast-track degrees by networking with suspected diploma mills in the Philippines.

Chan apologized for his “fuzzy memory” and noted that he had filed a tax return for the money.

You may wonder what kind of a person Chan really is, considering his involvement in these controversies that could seriously hurt his credibility as head of an organization involved in promoting decency and equal rights.

Hong Kong doesn’t have a shortage of talents. It’s just that it seems to be always struggling to find the right person for the right job.

What’s even sadder is that this is not the first absurd appointment in the CY Leung administration.

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EJ Insight writer

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