Eight candidates have been nominated to join the election for seats on the governing Council of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) as the terms of three members are set come to an end in early December.

Aside from two who did not reply to media enquiries, six of the candidates have said that they oppose the rumoured appointment of Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as the new chairperson of the Council.

Politics professor Joseph Chan Cho-wai, who was outspoken against the Council’s decision not to appoint liberal law scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun, was nominated by pro-Beijing figure professor Albert Chen Hung-yee.

Chan told Apple Daily that although they have different political views, they were of the same view that institutional autonomy and academic freedom must be defended. He added that he has been serving HKU for some 25 years and he will continue to speak out based on his conscience, even though the recent atmosphere at the school was depressing.

The HKU Council election candidates.
The HKU Council election candidates. Photo: HKU and Stand News.

High profile candidates

Professor Alfonso Ngan Hing-wan, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, was nominated by Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Gabriel Leung.

Ngan told the newspaper that he has been doing research at HKU for over 20 years and that he believed he could fight for the best interests of the university. He added that even though there was a confidentiality agreement at the HKU Council, no one should use it to make unfair comments inside the Council.

Ngan was also one of the five members of the search committee which recommended Johannes Chan to be appointed as pro-vice-chancellor. He said he did not feel any pressure in making the decision.

Pro-government figures

Another high profile candidate was economics Professor Richard Wong Yue-chim. He resigned as provost and deputy vice-chancellor of HKU in 2010, saying he wanted to focus on doing research.

Wong is also a member of the government’s Economic Advisory Committee. He signed a petition against last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protest, and supported the government’s political reform package which was rejected in the Legislative Council in June.

HKU Academic Staff Association chairman Dr Cheung Sing-wai told the newspaper that Wong rarely revealed his stance on major issues and that he could not understand why Wong decided to run for a seat in the Council after resigning from the more influential position of provost.

Professor Chen Guanhua, who is Head of the Chemistry Department, is running as a candidate again after losing to Professor Lo Chung-mau by three votes at the last election in April.

Cheung Sing-wai said Chen was not well known in HKU and he questioned how Chen could attract so many votes.

arthur li
Arthur Li. Photo: Stand News.

Opposition to Arthur Li

Aside from Richard Wong and Chen Guanhua who did not reply to Ming Pao’s enquiries, all other candidates said they would not support Arthur Li as the new Council chairperson, including biological science Professor Lim Boon Leong, mechanical engineering Professor Cheung Kie-chung, civil engineering Professor Albert Yeung Tak-chung and Head of the School of Humanities Timothy O’Leary.

Chan Cho-wai, Cheung Kie-chung, Albert Yeung and Timothy O’Leary all share similar views – they told Ming Pao they might withdraw from the election to increase the chance of winning a seat.

Arthur Li was rumoured to be appointed the new Council chairperson last Friday, but the appointment has yet to be made.

Former HKU pro-vice-chancellor Professor Rosie Young Tse-tse, 84, who was considered a pro-government figure, is rumoured to be appointed as interim Council chairperson on Friday.

Kris Cheng

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.