The class boycott committee of the University of Hong Kong has rebutted criticism towards them from the chairman of HKU’s governing Council Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, saying that he was smearing the students and breaking the foundations of any potential dialogue.

The committee began a week-long class boycott last week and protested on Tuesday night demanding the governing Council respond to calls for reform.

Li said at a press conference on Thursday that students protesting on campus on Tuesday night were like people who “took drugs” and were “poisoned”. He also said that they were manipulated by the Civic Party.

Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok. Photo: Now TV

Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, an HKU student and member of the class boycott committee, said that Li’s criticisms towards her were baseless.

“I was an intern at [the Civic Party] office of Alan Leong Kah-kit four years ago, I wasn’t even enrolled in the university, and I don’t think that interning at a political party represents any further relationship with the party,” Leung said.

She added that social science students at HKU have to do internships at various political parties in Hong Kong, and that it should not be seen as political interference by the parties. She questioned whether Li is qualified to be the chairman of the Council, if he did not know of such policy.

Billy Fung.

Li called HKU Student Union president and Council member Billy Fung Jing-en a “liar” at the press conference, saying that he gave false information to the students by suggesting Council members had refused to set up a review panel to examine the Council’s structure. Li said this caused students to surround the meeting venue.

But Leung said that, although Fung was in favour of a review panel, he was voting on the intention of setting one up. There was no way for him to know whether the Council would delay its establishment.

“That’s why after he cast the vote, the students are waiting for the Council chairperson, as well as the Council members, to give an account as to why the detailed terms of reference, or the time frame, were not discussed,” Leung said. She added that Fung was trying to create a dialogue between students and Li.

Leung said it was not an unsafe environment for Li to communicate with students, as no one wished to hurt him. She said that Li left the venue accompanied by police and did not want to talk at all.

Arthur Li being surrounded.

‘Worse than a year one student’

Li also criticised referendums at HKU opposing his appointment last year, saying they were not representative, as only about 4,000 people voted against him out of some 160,000 alumni.

“He totally disrespects democratic procedures, he is worse than a year one student,” said Lam Chak-kong, member of the committee. “Referendums are merely opinion polls, and 97 percent of those who voted were against his appointment, if the rest supported him, they should have voted.”

The students also said they felt “sad” that vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson did not defend them against “untrue accusations”. Mathieson had said earlier on Thursday that he relied on Li to determine whether students were controlled by political parties as he has little knowledge of the political scene in Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, Mathieson had said he would arrange a meeting between students and Li in ten days.

The class boycott committee said that it would need to have another meeting with students to determine whether there is still a need to meet with Li.

See also: Explainer: The HKU Council pro-vice-chancellor debacle

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.