Alumni from the University of Hong Kong have launched a petition entitled “Safeguard HKU” in response to repeated deferrals of the university’s appointment of a pro-vice-chancellor, citing the incident as a threat to the university’s autonomy.

The petition urged the 100-year-old institution in Pok Fu Lam to “safeguard university autonomy” and uphold academic freedom. More than 400 alumni signed the appeal, including an ex-president of the Legislative Council, Andrew Wong Wang-fat, and a former director of Legal Aid, Lady Pauline Cheung Cheng Po-lin.

Members of the University of Hong Kong Alumni Concern Group.

The HKU Council explained in June that it needed to appoint the future deputy vice-chancellor prior to making a decision on the pro-vice-chancellor’s position.

Johannes Chan Man-mun, a former Dean of the university’s Faculty of Law, was unanimously recommended for the post by the vice-chancellor search committee. Chan considers his evident pro-democracy stance as a factor in delaying the appointment, and criticised the decision as “absolutely ridiculous.”

Johannes Chan Man-mun. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

At a press conference on Sunday, the University of Hong Kong Alumni Concern Group called for the institution to act on the search committee’s recommendations, and to follow established procedures. The group also called for an end to the system under which Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is automatically the Chancellor of the university, in order to minimise intervention from the executive branch.

Billy Fung Jing-en, President of the Hong Kong University Student Union, announced that a rally would take place on July 16 to demand that appointments of senior personnel be made without the participation of the Chief Executive. The march will commence at 3pm, starting at the university and ending at Government House in Central.

University of Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Professor Gabriel Matthew Leung, Dean of the university’s Faculty of Medicine said he was “slightly worried” by the delay in the pro-vice-chancellor’s appointment. During an interview with TVB programme On the Record, Leung said many were not persuaded by the Council’s explanation that it was “waiting for the future deputy vice-chancellor.”

Leung added that this practice was unusual, and he hoped that the Council would complete the appointment within the next two meetings.

Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee. Photo: Campus TV, HKUSU via Facebook.

Former legislative councillor Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said that the delay of Chan’s appointment as pro-vice-chancellor was “unreasonable”, according to Ming Pao. She said that members of the Council should resign if they fail to provide a reasonable explanation.

The petition is open to alumni of the University of Hong Kong, as well as to the general public.

Paul Benedict Lee

Paul Benedict Lee is an undergraduate law student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Paul has previously contributed to HK Magazine and Radio Television Hong Kong, covering issues ranging from local heritage conservation to arts features. He has also worked as a legal intern at local human rights firm Daly & Associates.