More than a dozen political groups formed by professionals have issued a joint statement against executive councillor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung’s appointment as chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s governing Council.

The statement blasted Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for putting his ally in charge of Hong Kong’s elite university despite mounting opposition from students, alumni, faculty and the public.

Professionals issued joint letter calling on CY to “stop picking fights.” Photo: 放射良心 via Facebook.

“This decision reflects yet again the current Chief Executive’s approach of being obstinate, and picking fights for their own sake. We hereby express our anger and condemnation at both this unwise decision as well as his approach when dealing with matters,” said the open letter, published on Monday in Apple Daily and Ming Pao.

The letter follows a rally on Sunday by multiple teachers and students groups against Li. Demonstrators included former colleagues of Li when he was president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, reported Ming Pao. The local newspaper cited a Canadian teacher, who used to work under Li, as saying, “Everyone knows Arthur Li is a bully.”

The former education minister was appointed on New Year’s Eve following months of speculation. Previous votes conducted among HKU’s teaching staff, alumni and students showed a vast majority rejected Li. The 70-year-old was known for his pro-Beijing stance and hardline approach. He has been especially unpopular in recent months after leaked tapes revealed he attacked liberal law professor Johannes Chan Mun-man for “not having a doctoral degree” in an HKU Council meeting. Chan’s nomination for pro-vice-chancellorship was voted down in that meeting, which sparked protests on campus.

Arthur Li was appointed as HKU Council chairman. File Photo: Gov HK and Stand News.

Observers see the incident as proof of the government’s interference in academic affairs and erosion of academic freedom. It has also added to dissatisfaction with CY Leung’s administration.

“After a tumultuous few years, the Hong Kong community is exhausted. As a leader, the Chief Executive must immediately cease picking fights, give the Hong Kong community a break, and no longer sow trouble and chaos,” the joint letter by professionals said.

The letter was signed by progressive groups which have sprung up in the past two years in the wake of a social debate on constitutional reform and the mass uprising in 2014. They include ArchiVision, Artists Action, Financier Conscience, Progressive Lawyers’ Group, Frontline Tech Workers, Médecins Inspirés and others.

Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.