Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, who chairs the governing council of the University of Hong Kong, dismissed a newspaper report as “fake news” for quoting outgoing vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson as saying that the central government’s Liaison Office had interfered in his work a lot, Apple Daily reports.
Guesting at an internet radio program hosted by former Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing on Wednesday, Li said he has never heard that Mathieson was working under such interference. He also cited a text message from Mathieson himself saying that he had been misquoted.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, published in the newspaper on Monday, Mathieson was quoted as saying that his tenure was filled with “pressure from everybody” and that he had conversations “all the time” with Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.
Shocked by the report after reading it, Li immediately sent a text message to Mathieson to ask him to clarify what he really said in the interview.
In Mathieson’s text messages, which Li read out in the program, he said “SCMP typically misquoted me. They asked if I was put under pressure. And I said, all the time. They asked if the liaison office talked to me. And I said yes. They then conflated the two. I never called it interference. I talked about advice.”
Li said the report mixed Mathieson’s “all the time” reference with his reply to the question of whether the liaison office had talked to him. Li said the report was “fake news”.
Li said that he assumed his post at the HKU Council on Jan. 1, 2016, he has met with officials three or four times a year, and in those meetings, they just listened to what he had to say but rarely gave advice.
In the SCMP report, Mathieson was also quoted as saying that his premature departure was prompted in part by Li, who did not discuss the possibility of a second term with him despite his entering the fourth year of a five-year contract.
Li defended himself by saying that it was a wrong accusation.
Mathieson sent a message to HKU staff, students and alumni in February last year, saying he will be leaving his post in January 2018, one year before his five-year term ends, and he will take up a similar position at the University of Edinburgh, which has announced his appointment.
According to Li, he had been asked twice by Mathieson about the renewal of his contract for another term, when he had not been at his job for three full years.
Consideration and discussion of the renewal of Mathieson’s contract would not come, according to procedures, until at least three and a half to four years of the term were completed, hk01.com reported.
As such, Li said, he did not try to persuade Mathieson to stay after being informed that he would leave for the University of Edinburgh.
Li claimed that it is not easy to let go the head of a university if the person has done a good job, adding that he believes Mathieson would get a second term with most people’s support had he chosen to stay.
– Contact us at [email protected]