HKU council votes against promotion for Johannes Chan

September 30, 2015 10:15
(Clockwise from top left) Arthur Li, Lo Chung-mau, Liao Cheung-kong, Leonie Ki, Edward Chen, Rosanna Wong, Benjamin Hung and Margaret Leung allegedly made remarks unfavorable to Johannes Chan. Photos: HKEJ

The University of Hong Kong council discussed at its meeting Tuesday night the search committee’s recommendation to appoint former law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun pro vice chancellor for academic staffing and resources.

The council rejected the recommendation by a vote of 12 to 8 at the end of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Ming Pao Daily reported Wednesday.

Council chairman Edward Leong Che-hung said at a news conference the decision was based on the best and long-term interests of HKU.

He said details of the discussion will not be revealed, on the grounds of confidentiality, individual privacy and HKU policy.

The decision is consistent with the council’s support for academic freedom and autonomy, and hopefully people can accept it, Leong said.

HKU vice chancellor Peter Mathieson, who had decried the delay in the appointment, said he was disappointed at the result, which meant he would not have a complete team in his administration.

But Mathieson said he respected the council's decision, as people may define the best interests of the school differently.

Chan said afterward that the issue was not about winning or losing but about challenges to our values and beliefs, perseverance and endurance.

The appointment process may have come to an end, he said, but the decision shows there is  still a lot of work to do to preserve academic freedom and protect the autonomy of the university.

Meanwhile, Billy Fung Jing-en, president of the HKU Students' Union and a council member, told the media almost immediately after the meeting that Chan was rejected by a vote of 12 to 8 after eight pro-establishment members criticized the candidate.

Fung quoted Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, who was appointed to the council in March by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, as saying Chan had no doctoral degree and therefore was not qualified to be a pro vice chancellor.

Li also questioned why certain political parties were so supportive of Chan, Fung said.

Fung quoted Li as saying Chan could have been appointed dean of law just because he was a nice guy.

Other council members, including Leonie Ki Man-fung, a deputy to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and managing director of New World Development Co. Ltd. (00017.HK); Margaret Leung Ko May-yee, a CPPCC deputy and deputy chairman of Chong Hing Bank; and Benjamin Hung Pi-cheng, chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank, said Chan should not have revealed he was the candidate before a formal decision was made.

Fung also quoted council member Lo Chung-mau, head of surgery at HKU, as saying that Chan did not show sympathy to him after he was injured when a group of students stormed a meeting of the council on July 28.

Lo said Chan wasn't even qualified to be an assistant professor, Fung said.

Meanwhile, barrister Martin Liao Cheung-kong, a legislator representing the commercial sector and a deputy to the National People's Congress, said Chan's articles had been searched only four times in Google Scholar in the past five years, Fung said.

Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, executive director of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups and a CPPCC deputy, worried that appointing Chan would split the university further, Fung told the media.

Former Lingnan University president Edward Chen Kwan-yiu said Chan seldom published articles in academic journals and his qualifications were not on a par with the other pro vice chancellors, Fung said.

However, Chen denied saying that when asked by a Ming Pao reporter, but he refused to comment further, on the grounds of confidentiality.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that except for Chen's comments, all the other members were quoted accurately by Fung. 

Fung said he will accept criticism of his disclosures and apologize for violating the principle of confidentiality.

But he said he hopes the council will disclose the content of the discussion to allow teachers, students and alumni to monitor its deliberations.

Leong later condemned Fung’s leaking of what went on during the meeting as violating the principle of confidentiality.

The council will consider punishing Fung, Leong said.

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