Johannes Chan Man-mun, the former Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), has expressed his disappointment over Arthur Li’s appointment as chairman of the school’s governing Council by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Li was one of the members who was heard opposing Chan’s appointment as the pro-vice-chancellor of HKU in leaked tapes of Council meetings, saying that Chan did not have a doctoral degree and only became Dean of the Faculty of Law because he was a “nice guy.”
On a Commercial Radio programme on Thursday, Chan said that he hoped the appointment was the “last piece of bad news in 2015.” He criticised Leung as being self-willed and said he was very disappointed in Leung and the government for appointing Li despite strong opposition.
Chan said that he expected the appointment to create disputes and divide the university, and school resources have and will be wasted on internal conflicts.
Chan said after Li takes office, people should observe if and how he communicates with different parties to see if he is taking the best interests of the university into account, and to see if he is defending institutional autonomy and academic freedom.
Chan said that people should not be pessimistic, as HKU has faced many troubles over the years and its vitality is strong.
He added that one of the reasons his appointment as pro-vice-chancellor was rejected was that he was a controversial figure and, for this reason, his appointment would divide HKU.
However, this is not solid reasoning for a rejection, Chan concluded, adding that politics were behind the decision. An even more controversial figure has now been appointed as the Council chairman, Chan said.
‘Strive to maintain the traditions of HKU’
Li issued a statement on Thursday midnight after he was officially appointed, saying he was honoured to serve HKU as the chairman of the Council.
He added that he would strive to maintain HKU traditions, and he hoped that his experience would help elevate the university further to make staff, students and alumni feel proud of the school.
In response, HKU student union president Billy Fung Jing-en said Li was not alumni. Fung said Li has never taught in HKU and would not understand HKU’s traditions. He found it ironic that Li claimed he could maintain the traditions.
Fung said he would continue to monitor Li’s actions to try to block him from making decisions that could hurt HKU.
Meanwhile, HKU president Peter Mathieson and the school’s Senior Management Team were pleased that the chairmanship of the Council has been announced.
“We are looking forward to working closely with Professor Arthur Li to further the best interests of the University. With the support of the whole Council, we are confident that the University will scale new heights in realising the latest ‘Vision 2025’ Strategic Plan centred on Internationalisation, Innovation and Interdisciplinarity, converging on Impact,” an HKU statement read.