Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen says he did not vote for the candidate named by local media as the selection committee’s recommendation for incoming vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong.

According to sources cited by Apple Daily and Ming Pao, the favoured candidate to succeed incumbent vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson is Chinese-American scholar Zhang Xiang. Zhang is a Mechanical Engineering professor at UC Berkeley and received his PhD at the same school in 1996.

The other three candidates are two scholars from the US and UK respectively, and a senior teaching staff member at the university. The Vice-Chancellor Selection Committee met on Thursday, with Zhang receiving the recommendation as the next chief of the university following a seven-to-four secret ballot.

Zhang Xiang. Photo: Stand News.

Mathieson’s term has been plagued with controversy after he compared the actions of student activists to the UK’s Hillsborough disaster, and after he signed an anti-Hong Kong independence statement. He is due to leave his post at the end of next month to take the helm at Edinburgh University in Scotland.

Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, Ip said that – as a selection panel member – he believed it was important to respect the privacy of candidates, adding that there was a confidentiality agreement.

“I was chosen by University of Hong Kong alumni to serve on the selection committee… During my election, I promised to supervise the entire procedure as to whether it has been fair, and whether there have been any problems with the process.”

Ip said that, as far as he knew, there were no problems with the process. He also said that he had not voted for the candidate that was reported to be the committee favourite.

Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen. File Photo: Stand News.

“Although I know that the selection committee operates on a collective responsibility basis, I have to be accountable to my alumni with regards to my voting stance,” Ip said.

Zhang said in his candidacy proposal that the university should actively approach mainland Chinese universities and the central government’s education ministry to receive more national funding. He has also received the backing of University of Hong Kong governing council chair Arthur Li, Ming Pao reported.

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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.