The governing Council of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has endorsed its former chair’s controversial decision to apply for an injunction prohibiting the publication of leaked recordings of a closed-door meeting.

The decision to apply for the injunction was Leong’s alone, and he made it before having a meeting with the Council. After Thursday’s meeting, lawmaker Abraham Shek Lai-him, who had been elected unopposed as the Council’s temporary spokesperson at the extraordinary meeting, said that the Council supported Leong’s decision. He said: “He has done the right thing. He has to defend the Council’s principle of confidentiality.” Shek added that the decision was legally and morally justifiable, in order to ensure that members can speak freely during meetings.

The term of former chair Edward Leong Che-hung ended on November 6, and as of this Friday, Chief Executive Leung had not appointed a new chair. The chair is the sole spokesperson of the Council, and he or she sets the agenda of meetings and handles its daily operations. It was rumoured that Arthur Li Kwok-cheung would be appointed after the District Council election on November 22.

Abraham Shek (left) and Edward Leong. File
Abraham Shek (left) and Edward Leong. File

Shek did not say whether he supports Arthur Li’s appointment as the new chair: “The chair is appointed by the chancellor, it is the rule, it has always been like that.”

The terms of the confidentiality agreement were modified in August to make the rules stricter, and HKU Student Union president Billy Fung Jing-en has yet to sign the agreement. In September, Fung breached the Council’s confidentiality rules by publicly revealing the reasoning behind the body’s controversial decision to reject Johannes Chan Man-mun’s candidature for the University’s pro-vice-chancellor.

“I will ensure that students, teachers and staff have the right to know that the Council can run smoothly and according to all related rules during the absence of a chair.” Fung said.

Council member Margaret Leung Ko May-yee chaired the Thursday meeting on a one-off basis. Members have to elect a chair meeting by meeting, Ko said.

The next HKU Council meeting will take place on November 24.

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.