Members of the governing Council of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and lawmakers have responded to its chairman’s accusations of its students, who said they were like people who were on drugs and were controlled by the Civic Party.
Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, who was appointed as the Council chairman by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying last year, was opposed by many of the school’s students and staff members, who opposed his hardline approach or his role in the rejection of law scholar Johannes Chan’s appointment as the pro-vice-chancellor.
A student committee was formed to launch a week-long class boycott last week. They also protested on Tuesday night, surrounding the Council members at the meeting venue, demanding the Council respond to calls for reform.
Breakdown in communication
Timothy O’Leary, a member of the Council, said the incidents on Tuesday were “very unfortunate” and “unnecessary” given that the Council unanimously decided to initiate a review of its own operation. This was fulfilling one of the students’ demands.
“However, I do not believe it is true to say that the students were manipulated by a political party, nor that they have been poisoned,” O’Leary said in a statement.
“Their actions, I believe, can be largely attributed to a breakdown in communication, impatience, an understandable mistrust of Council, and a passionate commitment to the core ideals of HKU.”
He urged the HKU community to work together to ensure that future Council meetings can be carried out and concluded in a way that fosters calm, open discussion and mutual respect.
“It is time to move beyond blockades, accusations, and public name-calling,” O’Leary said. It would take time to review the Council’s structure, the Council and Li needed to improve the methods and channels of communication, and students needed to exercise patience and trust.
Unable to control
Alan Leong Kah-kit, leader of the Civic Party, said on a radio programme on Friday that he was “shocked” by Li’s speeches.
“Even parents could not control a 22-year-old daughter,” he said. Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, a member of the class boycott committee, had interned at his office four years ago, but they were merely friends on Facebook after that and nothing more.
He added that the HKU Alumni Concern Group, who were closer to the students, had not managed to communicate with the organisers during the class boycott, so they could not have controlled them.
Li accused former Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee of commanding the students at the scenes on Tuesday. But Leong and Eu confirmed that she left at 5pm that day for a party meeting.
Li also accused HKU Student Union president Billy Fung Jing-en of giving false information to the students, which led to the protest on Tuesday night.
But Council member Eric Cheung Tat-ming said on the radio programme that Fung was giving the correct information to students that the Council would not set up a review panel immediately. Students did not accept the delayed establishment and protested.
“You cannot twist his words saying he gave false information, this is unfair,” Cheung said. He considered Li’s words were provocative, that they could not solve problems and were inappropriate.
Fung also said on the programme that Li’s words had a bad influence on society, and that he was smearing the students, although they only wanted to defend the school’s values.