Open Letter from the Hong Kong University Students’ Union to the Advisory Committee on Council Chairmanship


Dear Sir David Kwok-po Li, Professor Xiang Zhang, Mrs Margaret May Yee Ko Leung, Professor Rosie Tse Tse Young,

The Hong Kong University Students’ Union had invited you to a public consultation forum for the Advisory Committee on Council Chairmanship to facilitate the exchange of ideas and thoughts on the candidate for the new HKU Council Chairman. The consultation aims to define students’ expectations towards the new Council Chairman for the Advisory Committee to put under consideration. However, due to the prior commitments, the Committee was not able to attend the consultation. Nevertheless, we appreciate that the Advisory Committee welcomes a written input. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to issue this written response to express our expectations and demands.

The new Council Chairman must be responsible to all HKU students and staff for his acts both internally and externally. The Chairman plays a key role in the business of the University, and with the Council being the supreme governing body of the University, the Council is in a position of power, from the management of the University’s finances and properties, staff appointments, to the drafting of Statues. Resolutions of the Council are intimately related to everyone on campus. Therefore, other than being equipped with the ability to chair and lead the Council, the Council Chairman shall also demonstrate sufficient understanding of the University, from its operation to our culture and values. Furthermore, The Council Chairman shall bear the same duty as the senior management of representing the University. Professor Arthur Li, the current Council Chairman had used “drug abuses” as an analogy to student protests during the Sassoon Road Student Movement in 2016. As a then-Council Member, he ranted the student protests as comparable to the “Cultural Revolution”. These were serious indiscreet remarks on students. The greater the power, the more related the responsibilities. Thus, Council Members, especially the Council Chairman represent the University by his/her words and conducts, with great hopes and expectations. There is a genuine need for the Council Chairman to demonstrate his accountability to students and staff.

The new Council Chairman must be someone accepted by all HKU members, including teaching staff, non-academic staff and students. There have been constant disputes occurring within the Council in these current years. The Chairman must be capable of safeguarding the institutional autonomy, academic freedom and freedom of speech. In 2015, HKUSU convened a General Polling, allowing students to cast their votes to two motions. The motions were: 1) “The post of Chairman the Council University Hong Kong must be filled by a candidate who is acceptable to the members of its teaching staff, non-academic staff and students”, and 2) “Arthur LI Kwok-cheung is not suitable to hold any position under the governance structure of the University Hong Kong”. The two motions were overwhelmingly carried with over 90% votes of for. More than five thousand students voted to show their stances. The Union then published a declaration, titled as “Perversity only leads to a dead end. We vote to usher in the right way”, to request the Chancellor to take heed of the result and respond to students’ demands accordingly. By the same token, Professor Arthur Li was urged to resign from his position immediately. The appointment of Professor Li led to an elevation in student movements and came to an end with the encirclement of the Council Meeting on Sassoon Road. Frankly, an attitude of confrontation shall never be inevitable towards the relationship between students and the University., It is our belief that the Advisory Committee will take history as a lesson and avoid repeating the same mistake.

Last but not least, the final shortlisted person shall be openly clarified by the Advisory Committee. Moreover, it is our anticipation that the Advisory Committee would explain whether our views have acceded with point-by-point elaborations. We sincerely hope the Advisory Committee can understand students’ views and expectations in this written input and consider our opinion thoroughly when advising an appropriate candidate for the new Council Chairman to the Chancellor. The new Council Chairman shall listen with an open mind to the views of different stakeholders in our University and lead the University to co-governance by students and staff.

Yours sincerely,
The Hong Kong University Students’ Union
6th November 2018