The University of Hong Kong Council is set to make a decision over the controversial handling of donations by Occupy Central leader and law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting and former law school dean Johannes Chan Man-mun as early as next week.

According to local broadcaster RTHK, the council secretariat is finalising the draft motion for submission to the council next week. The council will decide by secret ballots on whether to accept the inquiry report of Tai’s acceptance and use of HK$1.45 million from anonymous donors last year.

If the majority of the council accepts the report, HKU management will then make a decision on whether to hold a disciplinary hearing against Tai and Chan.

Edward Leong Che-hung, the council Chairman, said that the results would be released to the public once the council has reached a conclusion.

Leong also dismissed suggestions that the investigation was politically motivated given that Chan was tipped to take on the role of pro-vice chancellor at the university.

benny tai
HKU law professor and Occupy leader Benny Tai. Photo: Wikipedia.

Education sector legislator and HKU Council member Ip Kin-yuen urged his fellow council members to stay politically neutral and base the discussions on facts.

Of the 22 council members, six were directly appointed by Chief Executive CY Leung, who is also the Chancellor of HKU. Executive Council member and former education secretary Arthur Li Kwok-cheung is among the six appointed.

In October last year, local press received leaked emails revealing Tai’s acceptance of anonymous donations. Some of the donations were spent on Occupy-related projects, including HK$800,000 on the citywide civil referendum conducted by HKU Public Opinion Programme last June and HK$350,000 on the recruitment of a research assistant, who during her period of employment worked at the Occupy Central campaign. The email hack and the extensive media coverage by leftist newspapers was seen by many pr0-democracy supporters as politically motivated and an attack on the Occupy campaign.

The report found Tai’s acceptance of donations as the middleman inconsistent with the university guidelines, but did not find Tai in violations of university policies. Chan was accused of failing to notify HKU management about the handling of the donations.

Tai said in his defence that the university guidelines were unclear and only state that “donations must come from credible sources.”

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.