University of Hong Kong (HKU) students besieged a meeting of its governing Council on Tuesday night, demanding reform. Most Council members did not speak to students before they left the meeting, though they agreed to form a panel to review its structure following controversies last year over the governing body.

Following the controversial appointment of Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as Council chairman in December, students started a week-long class boycott in protest.

Other than a review panel, students also demanded that the Chief Executive be dropped as the automatically appointed university Chancellor. They called for at least half of the Council members to be appointed from within the university, and for Council members currently selected by the Chief Executive to be appointed directly by the Council instead.

The protesters at the campus. Photo: HKUSU Undergrad.

“We demand a conversation!” students said, as they surrounded the venue of the first meeting chaired by Li on Tuesday. Around 300 joined the protest at the Sassoon Road campus in Pok Fu Lam.

‘Police leave the campus!’

By around 8pm, students heard that the Council had agreed to set up a review panel but had not budged on other demands. They attempted to block the exits of the building, refusing to let Council members leave.

Police at the campus.

Police Tactical Unit officers, who were originally standing on guard outside the building, were deployed to help Council members leave. Police told Apple Daily that they acted after receiving three calls made from the campus.

In response, students chanted “police leave the campus!” as some said they should not be operating within the university grounds.

Arthur Li being surrounded.

Council member Leonie Ki Man-fung claimed that she felt like vomiting and requested an ambulance. Although she was blocked by students for around an hour, she was eventually allowed to leave in an ambulance. Li also attempted to leave the site through the front door, assisted by police officers, but it was blocked by students and was forced to go back.

[清晰完整片段] 李國章「逃走」片段註:由於當時記者都在大樓外等待校方人士發言,因此只有從該層拍攝下層停車場外的情況。此外,記者曾向校方詢問講話的人將是誰,但校方一直沒有回答。

Posted by Campus TV, H.K.U.S.U. 香港大學學生會校園電視 on Tuesday, 26 January 2016

By around midnight, Li and HKU vice chancellor Peter Mathieson were still inside the building. Police then charged into the car park saying that they needed to investigate a case of criminal damage inside the building, however students did not allow them in. Meanwhile, Li left through the other side of the building accompanied by police.

(00:50) 李國章在警方的護送下從停車場後門離去後,警方嘗試封鎖李國章所用以離去的路,期間警方與學生發生肢體碰撞。

Posted by Campus TV, H.K.U.S.U. 香港大學學生會校園電視 on Tuesday, 26 January 2016

An hour later, Mathieson appeared outside the building and spoke with students. Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, one of the protest organisers, said that they would meet with Li and Mathieson in ten days and hoped students would join and give their opinions.

Johannes Chan (left) and Arthur Li (right). Photo: Stand News and Gov HK.

HKU’s governance has been the subject of controversy during the past year due to the rejection of liberal law scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun as its pro-vice-chancellor. Li’s appointment by the Chief Executive attracted widespread opposition from students, teachers, staff members and the public.

In a press statement, the HKU said the Council “unanimously agreed” to set up a review panel to study the governance and effectiveness of the university. This would be in the spirit of the Niland Report issued in 2003 and 2009, which suggested such a review be carried out every five years. It would be issued at around the same time as a report on university governance by the University Grants Committee.

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.