Dozens of Lingnan University students protested at the school on Monday afternoon, as its Council met for the first time following the controversial appointment of new members by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The protest, organised by the Lingnan University Student Union (SU), called upon supporters to surround the meeting room of the Council at the Wong Administration Building and block its door. The Union demanded a direct discussion regarding the appointments.

Council chairman Rex Au Yeung Pak-kuen and University President Leonard Cheng met with students outside the meeting room, but did comment on the appointments.

Some students, who were dissatisfied that the 18 Council members appointed by the Chief Executive did not meet them, attempted to charge into the building. The group were stopped by university staff. SU President Lau Chun-lam said that the SU will not recognise Cheng as their University President.

Students surrounded the meeting room of the Council. Photo: Inmedia

Controversial Council member

Lau said: “The school administration’s excuse was that the demands of the Student Union may not represent all students… that is why we have asked students, staff and alumni to come and surround the meeting room of the Council, in the hope that the Council members can directly respond to our demands.”

“One of our demands is that the 18 Council members appointed by the Chief Executive comment on what they think of the newly appointed Council members,” he said. “For example, [newly appointed Council member] Junius Ho had said that he hoped to dismiss the Student Union… obviously he doesn’t want the school administration to listen to students.”

“He hopes to destroy our liberal arts education and the [tradition of] governance of the school by staff and students, and even to make Hong Kong universities like the universities in China, where the Communist Party controls the school and there is no need to listen to students,” Lau added.

Student staged a sit-in as they were not allowed to enter the meeting. Photo: Inmedia.

Abolishing the Chief Executive’s power

Lau also demanded the establishment of a special committee to research the issue of abolishing the Chief Executive’s status as Chancellor and his power to directly appoint 18 out of 33 Council members: “That power can directly affect an institution’s autonomy and academic freedom.”

He added that Junius Ho has failed to promise that he will defend institutional autonomy and academic freedom, as he did not think they were being hampered: “His logic is ridiculous and laughable… even worse than a primary school student.”

Council members met with the students after the meeting. Photo: Inmedia.

Council members respond

Au Yeung later decided to meet with the students, but said that it was not reasonable for Council members to comment instantly. He said that the Council members would need time to discuss and that the issue of setting up a special committee would be on the agenda of the next Council meeting.

The other Council members also refused to comment on abolishing the Chief Executive’s status as Chancellor and his power to directly appoint Council members.

Students responded by saying that they only demanded the Council members comment in their personal capacities.

Kris Cheng

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.