HKU Council rejects audit report on Benny Tai donations

March 26, 2015 15:25
HKU Council chairman Edward Leong (left) has asked the review panel to submit a final report, but Benny Tai says it's not an interim report. Photos: HKEJ

The University of Hong Kong Council has asked an internal review committee that investigated associate professor of law Benny Tai Yiu-ting over his handling of donations worth HK$1.3 million to submit a final report on the case.

In its 50-page report, the audit committee found that Tai, a co-founder of the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, did not follow the university’s guidelines on collecting donations, while the hiring of research assistants from the university’s School of Humanities using the donations was questionable, Ming Pao Daily reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

However, the report did not name anyone for disciplinary action.

The council held a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the report, after which chairman Edward Leong Che-hung ordered the panel to submit a final report as soon as possible, the sources said.

Leong insisted that it was an interim report and no parts of it would be made available to the public. 

The sources said some of the council members, who are also members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, have blasted the report as being too mild. Their views were reportedly supported by committee members who are close to the pro-establishment camp.

Tai said he did not see any reason why the report should be an interim one as the review committee had made comprehensive inquiries and the respondents had provided detailed responses.

The council's decision will give the public the impression that the university was trying to delay the resolution of the case, he added.

Johannes Chan, former dean of the HKU Faculty of Law, said all parties were expecting the report to be the final document, and it would raise serious issues of procedural impropriety if the report was rejected simply because it did not arrive at a certain conclusion desired by some council members.

According to the sources, the report pointed out that the HKU's internal guidelines on donations were not clear enough, noting that it remains uncertain if they must be complied with or are only for reference.

The report said Tai did not follow the guidelines in verifying the sources of donations comprising three sums worth a combined HK$1.3 million.

The council meeting lasted nearly three hours, the sources said, adding that newly appointed council member Arthur Li Kwok-cheung rarely made comments during the meeting.

Some university staffers voiced surprise that the report was rejected, saying that it was prepared by professional and authoritative figures.

They also said it would violate the course of justice if the council had set a predetermined outcome for the report.

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