University of Hong Kong Vice-Chancellor Peter Mathieson has defended asking student representative Billy Fung Jing-en to leave a governing council meeting on Tuesday. He said that legal advice had been sought beforehand and that the council had the authority to do what it felt was necessary.

Former University of Hong Kong Students’ Union President Billy Fung was asked to leave the HKU Council meeting after refusing to sign a document promising to guarantee the personal safety of members.

peter mathieson
HKU Vice Chancellor Peter Mathieson. Photo: RTHK screencap.

Mathieson said during a media spring reception on Thursday that, since it was a collective decision by the council, any member could be potentially be excluded from the meeting, Ming Pao reported. He also said that a legal counsel had informed them that the body has the authority to do anything necessary to ensure a smooth meeting.

Fung was earlier barred from confidential council meetings after he leaked details of a closed-door meeting which rejected the appointment of liberal scholar Johannes Chan last September. Tuesday’s meeting was held at the Exhibition Centre in Wanchai as the previous meeting on campus ended with around 300 students surrounding council members, demanding reform.

‘Rights of members’

“The Council made a statement about that decision and obviously I am a member of the Council so I abide by the Council’s decision,” Mathieson said. “[He] wasn’t targeted because he’s a student representative, [it was] because of concerns about safety that were raised by some Council members… he has every right to be there on the basis of being elected. But also the Council members have a right to expect their safety to be respected and to be preserved.”

He also said that a postgraduate student representative was present at the meeting and therefore students’ voices were still heard.

Arthur Li.
Arthur Li.

According to Mathieson, the HKU Council has been working very well with controversial Chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung so far: “He wants to concentrate on the best interests of the university and I completely agree with him about that, that’s my job as well,” he said.

He said that moving the meeting to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai was on the basis of safety and not to escape from students, although he did prefer to have meetings on campus.

Wage increase 

Meanwhile, it was announced that the HKU Council decided at its meeting on Tuesday to implement a pay adjustment for wages backdated to October 2014. University staff recommended at – or above – the equivalent of Master Pay Scale 45 of the civil service scale will be eligible. Although some local media outlets suggested that this was an act of “appeasement”, Council member Cheung Kie Chung said that this was the result of the union’s efforts and it was merely a coincidence with regards to timing.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.