Johannes Chan Man-mun, the University of Hong Kong scholar embroiled in the pro-vice chancellor promotion scandal, has told students “not to lose hope” in their struggle against political interference at the school.

In an interview with Undergrad, HKU’s monthly student publication, Chan said that resistance “may not yield immediate results but students should not lose hope.”

Commenting on last month’s demonstration, when some 50 students disrupted an HKU council meeting to protest a decision to delay Chan’s appointment to the post of pro-vice chancellor, he said: “If the move created negative consequences or shifted public attention, the original intent of the act may have been undermined.”

He urged students to consider taking a step back in preparation for the next round of action, but said whatever the outcome, HKU would weather the storm.

Johannes Chan Man-mun.

The students’ protest drew mixed reactions, with pro-Beijing groups comparing their actions to the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution.

“As long as there are people persisting and voicing out, the issue will pass,” Chan said. “After this incident, like the incident with director of HKU public opinion program Robert Chung Ting-yiu in 2000, and the ‘8.18 incident’ of 2011, HKU’s values may in fact be strengthened.”

“I think HKU is very resilient. In the past hundred years HKU has witnessed many storms, and I feel that the university will remain standing. Leung Chun-ying will pass, Arthur Li Kwok-cheung will pass, I will pass, but HKU will still remain.”

HKU Undergrad magazine. Photo: Stand News.

Chan said that he would have withdrawn his nomination if it were not for a belief in academic freedom and the expectation of his colleagues. He said: “If people challenge [my] beliefs of liberty and freedom, you must continue to adhere to these values.”

He added: “A university education is not for you to become a degree-holder, but instead for you to become an intellectual. And one of the responsibilities of an intellectual is to participate in society.”

According to reports, Chan was unanimously nominated by the search committee for the post last December. Chan confirmed in an interview with HKEJ that he was supposed to take up the position on March 17 this year, before a string of delays.

He has been criticised by the pro-Beijing camp for his pro-democracy stance and his involvement in politics. He is a member of former chief secretary Anson Chan’s think tank, Hong Kong 2020. State media previously demanded he withdraw his nomination for the post.

Arthur Lo

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.