In the 2016 Review on University Governance, the Council agreed on suggestions made by the working group on the Review concerning the procedures of the Chancellor appointing the Chairman and members of the Council. In the suggestions, the working group suggested that instead of allowing the Chief Executive to directly appoint the Chairman of the Council, an “Advisory Committee on Council Chairmanship” (hereinafter referred to as the Advisory Committee) should be established to provide recommendations on suitable candidates to be the HKU Council Chairman to the Chief Executive for appointment. The Advisory Committee consists of four members: Pro Vice-Chancellor Sir David Li Kwok-po; President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Xiang Zhang; Treasurer of the University Ms Margaret Leung-Ko May-yee and a present Council member being elected by other Council members. On 11 October, the Council announced the result of the election of which Professor Rosie Young was elected as the last member of the Advisory Committee. The Union hereby congratulates Professor Young being elected as a member of the Advisory Committee thus hope that the Advisory Committee can recommend a suitable candidate for the Council chairman accepted by all HKU students and staff. We are also deeply disappointed for our student representative not being able to enter the Advisory Committee.
Ever since Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung was appointed as the Council chairman by former Chief Executive Mr Leung Chun Ying, there have been constant disputes occurring within the Council. There have been reports that the Council booked venues outside campus for meeting purposes diverting funds earmarked for other purposes. Also, nonsense reasons had been made just to ban an undergraduate representative to attend a council meeting. Moreover, the bribing dispute caused by the postgraduate representative in the council was even settled without a proper resolution. Being the Council chairman, Professor Li should bear the full responsibility for all these disputes. Professor Li was even involved in several disputes for his words. Before he was even appointed as the Council chairman, he was exposed by former Vice-President Professor Cheng Kai-ming of encouraging people not to donate to the University. After he was appointed, he slandered students by describing students participating in the Council meeting containment as “taking drugs”. Professor Li’s words not only discountenanced the University, being the Council chairman, he did not even show basic respect to students. The Union believes that being the most important executive body of the University, the Council chairman should be responsible to all HKU students and staffs for his acts both internally and externally. Therefore, the Council chairman should be someone accepted by all HKU members. Nevertheless, there is no student nor staff representative in the Advisory Committee, provided the fact that the Advisory Committee should consider all voices regardless of being in the committee or not. In this instance, the Union has the following demands:
1) The Advisory Committee should consult all HKU students publicly about the recommendation of candidate of the Council chairman and consider students’ comments thoroughly.
2) Professor Arthur Li is not a suitable candidate to be the Council chairman, nor suitable for any posts in the structure of University Governance.
Under the present structure of the Advisory Committee, it is obvious that students’ and staff’s voices will not be considered thoroughly nor protected. After all, the Advisory Committee can only recommend to the Chief Executive on the selection of the Council chairman. The Chief Executive still possesses the power to appoint the Council chairman. In other words, the Chief Executive can still make the Council a mere figurehead and not being able to handle University affairs independently. Therefore, the Union would like to propose the following visions towards future reform of University Governance:
1) Student and staff representatives shall be ex-officio members of the Advisory Committee (or committees related to the appointment of the Council chairman).
2) Council members appointed by the Chief Executive (including the chairman) shall be appointed by the Council itself instead.
3) The proportion of HKU members in the Council shall be more than half of all council members.
4) The Chief Executive shall not be the Chancellor.
Co-governance by students and staff is the ultimate goal of university governance. Still, there is a long and winding road to achieve this goal. Especially when institutional autonomy and academic freedom of the University is currently under huge suppression, reforms must be carried out towards the University Ordinance to save the University. The Union hopes that the Reform of University Governance will not be what it used to be, but really leading the University to co-governance by students and staff both systematically and realistically.
The Hong Kong University Students’ Union
14 October 2018