Former HKU law dean Johannes Chan has hit back at the reasons given by HKU Council member Arthur Li for rejecting his appointment as pro-vice-chancellor at a Council meeting, which were revealed through a leaked recording broadcast by Commercial Radio on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, after Li criticised pro-Beijing newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao, in the Council meeting, Wen Wei Po has announced it will offer Li a year’s free subscription so he can “have a better understanding of the paper.”

Johannes Chan
Johannes Chan. Photo: StandNews.

On Wednesday afternoon, Chan criticised Li as being shallow. Chan said he doubted Li’s ability as a Council member, given what he said during the meeting. He defended the law faculty’s decision to vote for him as dean in 2002, saying that he had already proven his capabilities during his three years as a department head. It was not simply a matter of being a “nice guy,” he said.

Chan also commented that a person’s PhD degree or lack thereof reflected their experience or whether they were fair. He said that “the quality of the discussion in HKU Council meetings shows that whether or not you have a PhD has nothing to do with your abilities or personal integrity.”

Finally, Chan said that he was nonpartisan and that he had not spoken to any political parties about the appointment. He also said that most of the 8,000 or so HKU alumni who voted at the unofficial meeting confirming his recommendation as pro-vice-chancellor did not have any affiliation with political parties.

A year of free Wen Wei Po for Arthur Li

The Wen Wei Po published a 600-word response to Arthur Li’s criticism of the paper on Thursday. They offered him a free subscription for a year.

arthur li
Arthur Li and Wenweipo. Photo: Stand News.

According to the leaked recording, Li had criticised the pro-Beijing press during the meeting. “It has been said that the left-wing press […] have been running hundreds of articles against this candidate. And quite honestly, I don’t read Wen Wei Po or Ta Kung Pao, and I think most people in Hong Kong do not read Wen Wei Po or Ta Kung Pao. The more they say about something, the more we feel anti whatever they say,” the recording revealed Li as saying.

In response, a spokesperson for the paper said that Li’s comments were “far from the truth” and highly subjective. “It seems as if Professor Li made the comments without having read Wen Wei Po at all… we would like to offer him a year’s free subscription, so that he will have a better understanding of the paper and come to a fairer conclusion,” a spokesperson for the paper said.

The paper said that the articles it ran on the HKU pro-vice-chancellor appointment affair were “highly professional,” assembled together after “a vigorous exercise of digging for the truth,” and “substantiated with evidence.” This was done so that the paper would “fulfill its social responsibility as a media outlet” and be “a reliable source of information for the public.”

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.