Alumni from the University of Hong Kong have voted overwhelmingly in favour of confirming the recommendation of pro-democracy scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun to the pro-vice chancellorship as well as removing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as the university’s chancellor.

The Convocation’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM)—which was closed to current students, the media and the general public—brought over 9,000 HKU graduates to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

HKU EGM live
Photo: HKFP.

7,821 out of 9,298 votes supported a motion urging HKU’s governing body, the Council, to “confirm the recommendation made by the Search Committee for the appointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Staffing and Resources) within 30 days from today.” 7,657 also voted in favour of a second motion stating that “ the Chief Executive shall not be the Chancellor and chief officer of the University.”

A third motion requesting that “the post of Chairman of the Council of University of Hong Kong must be filled by a candidate who is acceptable to the members of its teaching and non-academic staff as well as students” was endorsed by 7,633 voters.

For a motion to pass, 50 percent of votes—4,650—were required.

Although the vote is only symbolic and is not binding, it sends a powerful message to the university’s Council, which voted to delay Chan’s appointment at its last meeting in July.

John Wan Chung-on, chairman of the Convocation, said that the gathering will “refer all the results of the EGM to the university and to the Council” and “set up a working group [for the implementation of the passed motions] within one or two months.”

Wan declined to comment on whether on the vote’s implications and whether it will influence the Council’s decision. Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, convenor of the HKU Alumni Concern Group, said that he “hopes the Council will respect the voice of the alumni as shown in the vote.”

The Chief Executive serves as the chancellor for all of Hong Kong’s tertiary institutions—a custom that begun with the territory’s colonial-era governors. Traditionally only a symbolic role, opposition to this system has increased along with perceived interference in university governance by Chief Executive Leung.

Read more: Interview: former Chief Sec. Anson Chan on HKU and Hong Kong’s endangered core values

Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others