National People’s Congress Standing Committee member and HKU alumni Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai has hit back in response to comments made by University of Hong Kong Vice-Chancellor Peter Mathieson, requesting evidence to prove his assertion that he would not rule out the possibility of Beijing being behind the HKU pro-vice-chancellor appointment affair.

Meanwhile, an HKU Council member has said that Billy Fung Jing-en misunderstood the members’ reasons for rejecting Chan as his English was poor after he exposed what members had said about the appointment to the media.

In a meeting of the Council of the University of Hong Kong on Tuesday evening, 12 Council members voted against the appointment of former Faculty of Law dean Johannes Chan while eight voted in favour, blocking Chan’s appointment in spite of the search committee’s recommendation.

In an interview with Reuters published on Tuesday, Mathieson reportedly said back in August that he believed pressure on him and others who back Chan’s appointment was orchestrated. He also said that the contents of his email had been published by state media and it was possible “Beijing was behind the episode.”

Peter Mathieson.

However, Mathieson told Ming Pao on Wednesday that the interview took place before the Tuesday HKU Council meeting. He said the contents were taken out of context. He also said he was not sure who was behind it and that he could not exclude any possibilities, but he was not deliberately criticising or pointing the finger at anyone.

Rita Fan.

In response to this, Rita Fan said that if anyone is to accuse another of interfering, it should be accompanied by evidence or it will be hard to judge. Fan also expressed her disappointment in HKUSU President Billy Fung Jing-en for making the contents of the Council meeting public, saying she expected more from an HKU student.

Fan said that the HKU Council has enough reasons to reject Johannes Chan’s appointment, since he did not qualify in terms of his academic achievements and said things he should not have to the press. She also said that HKU affairs should be left to the Council and HKU’s management. Other parties, such as HKU alumni and students, can give their opinions, but should not put pressure on those in charge, she said.

File Photo: Ki Man-fung. Photo: Stand News.

Ki Man-fung of New World Development, an HKU council member, told Ming Pao that Billy Fung Jing-en had admitted to her that his English was poor. She believed that as a result of this he had failed to understand what the Council members were saying during the meeting. She also accused him of misleading the public and she said the Council has yet to make a decision on how to punish him.

Billy Fung Jing-en. Photo: HKU Undergrad via Facebook.

The remarks came after Fung revealed the reasons behind the Council’s decision on Tuesday soon after the meeting. He said these included Chan’s works not being frequently searched on Google Scholar and because Chan did not send his regards to Council member Lo Chung-mang after he fell at a meeting.

In an interview on Wednesday, Johannes Chan said he would not consider filing a judiciary review against the Council’s decision, as this would further hurt HKU, although he does believe there are grounds for a judicial review.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.