Around 20 University of Hong Kong (HKU) alumni held a candlelight vigil on Tuesday to denounce the decision by university’s governing body to vote down former Faculty of Law dean Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun’s appointment as pro-vice chancellor.

The 10:00pm vigil, organised on the main campus’s Sun Yat-sen Steps shortly after the Council’s decision, was attended by notable HKU alumni such as the Civic Party’s Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Alan Leong Kah-kit. The group held candles and spoke in turns about the decision, calling it “a dark day for HKU.”

alan leong kwok ka-ki
The meeting was attended by Alan Leong and Kwok Ka-ki of the Civic Party. Photo: HKFP.

HKU alumnus Cheung Yui-fai said that “the HKU Council rejected the recommendation of the search committee and did not give logical reasons as to their reason for voting it down. If what the student representative at the Council said was true, most of the members are not qualified to be on the Council. If these people have taken control and are affecting the management of HKU, it will be disastrous for the university’s future development.”

“So even though it’s so late, we’ve all shown up at HKU after seeing the decision on the news, hoping to express our discontent… As an alumnus, this is a sad day—and a dark day for HKU. We wish to lit a candle to give hope to the future, and to defend HKU’s academic freedom and independence.”

Ip Kin-yuen speaking at the vigil.
Ip Kin-yuen speaking at the vigil. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

HKU alumni and Legislative Councillor Ip Kin-yuen also stressed the importance of institutional autonomy and academic freedom, saying that they are the things most important to the university.

“They are written down at the top of the Council’s guidelines, that they must be the core value and basis of the university. But we see tonight these two things are just ornaments that can be thrown away easily.”

“We learned from our education here; we got our independent thinking here; we earned our great futures here… Because of that we felt great sadness …We cannot understand why some people who have benefited from HKU’s education are destroying its roots.”

Deputy convenor of the HKU Alumni Concern Group Mak Tung-wing said that the Council should provide written reasons and justification for its decision, as the Council should respect a motion passed about the appointment of pro-vice chancellor at the HKU Convocation.

“The Convocation’s passed motions are not binding… but the HKU Alumni Concern Group has said, if the Council does not run fairly, transparently and responsibly, how can we have confidence?”

“This is not the end but the start of a war,” he added.

On Tuesday evening, HKU Council announced that the appointment of Professor Johannes Chan to the pro-vice chancellorship had been rejected, with 12 votes against his appointment and eight in favour.

Additional reporting: Karen Cheung

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.