Community & Education Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Johannes Chan would ‘divide’ HKU says Council member in new leaked tape

A recording of a speech made by another Council member of the University of Hong Kong has been leaked on a popular Taiwanese internet forum. It follows the publication of two other leaked tapes from the controversial meeting and a court injunction granted to HKU to restrict their distribution.

The transcript and recording of Rosanna Wong Yik-ming was uploaded to PTT, one of the most popular forums in Taiwan, at around 8pm on Sunday. The speeches were apparently made during the same September 29 meeting as the previously leaked tapes. During the meeting, liberal law scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun’s appointment to the pro-vice-chancellorship of the university was rejected.

Rosanna Wong was once rumoured to be the next HKU Council chairperson, but no appointment has yet been made. The term of former chairperson Edward Leong Che-hung ended on Friday, November 6.

In the recording, Wong spoke against the appointment of Johannes Chan because, she says, he would further divide HKU. Her comments are in-keeping with what HKU Student Union president Billy Fung Jing-en previously revealed about the meeting. Wong said that she knew Chan well, but his appointment was not in the “interest of the University”.

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She said that HKU had “been undergoing quite a bumpy journey lately,” with incidents such as the controversial visit to HKU by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in 2011, the pro-democracy Occupy protests last year, the Occupy donation incident concerning law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting and recent events surrounding Chan. “It really, I think to me, is becoming a distraction of the University and it prevents the University actually to look longer term.”

“If we ever even think of any opportunities that we should grab and let this University shine and glow. I’ve been patiently waiting, you know – the new VC coming to this University, with a hope that we have a smooth strategy of development. No time, no discussions – everything has been pre-occupied and dominated by this sided political issue, the issues that are so divided in the community. And I am sick of it.” Wong said.

She said that appointing Chan would further divide HKU: “Because of the potential controversy of this candidate, I don’t say whether… the candidate is wrong or why we can bring this up, but there is a potential controversy, it exists whether you, whatever position you… whether you are on yellow camp or the blue camp, I don’t care, but the potential controversy exists.”

Rosanna Wong

Rosanna Wong. Photo: HKU.

“And because of a strong political position of this candidate… I do not have enough confidence that this candidate would probably help to unite, but on the contrary, he probably would further divide,” she added. “Now this is a senior executive position that’s on academic staffing and resources… I think in a lot of cases during my career to appoint a lot of senior executives, persons can be qualified but may not be suitable.”

“I know this candidate well, he’s a good gentleman, but sometimes for a lot of other reasons, he may not be totally suitable,” she said, “And I have to say, because of the controversy that exists, because of his strong political position, because of the potential risk of further divide the community, I have to say I do not have enough confidence to accept this recommendation.”

“And I want the candidate, at least, the future PVC or the Vice President, must be able to unite and must not politicise the working place that he is working in.”

She concluded saying the Council should search for another candidate.

Rosanna Wong declined to answer questions when approached by HKFP.

Full Transcript
Rosanna Wong:
Thank you Chairman. I just want to make a few comments, but the comments… when I make this comment I understand, I totally understand my duty as a member of the Council, particularly in terms of the appointment of senior executive in this Council. I understand it well and I understand the duty. And to me, there is no emotion in that. What I said later is something that I really give a lot of thought into it. I know this candidate very well, and in fact we were in the same class when we were in LSE, so I know the candidate well. It’s not that I don’t understand him, I don’t know him, and I read the paper and every piece of paper on my table, and I exercise my independent thinking without anybody intervening. With the biggest interest of the University, wide and long of the University, and before I make a comment, so I know what I am doing.

In the last two years or so, this University just like Hong Kong, has been undergoing quite a bumpy journey, in a sense there’s so many things happening in Hong Kong. Started from the University, on the 818 visit of Li Keqiang and also the Occupy Central thing, the donation issue, and recently about this appointment of this Vice President and PVC. In fact the last two years and a half is pretty sickening in the sense, you can see that so many discussion, division, particularly and entirely divided you know, the community. And I can understand, I mean, University as part of the wider Hong Kong community that reflect whatever happened in Hong Kong in the University, I can understand, but what bother me a lot is about this division, now the problem of the division is that we continue to divide the University. I don’t talk about Hong Kong, just about this University. It really, I think to me, is becoming a distraction of the University and it prevents the University actually to look longer term. In the last two years, I’ve been sitting in this Council every month, even more work than my own board meeting, but we never have a chance to talk about what mixed in this University. If we ever even think of any opportunities that we should grab and let this University shine and glow, I’ve been patiently waiting,you know, the new VC coming to this University with a hope that we have a smooth strategy of development, no time, no discussions, everything has been pre-occupied and dominated by this sided political issue, the issues that are so divided in the community. And I am sick of it.

And then when I think of this appointment, I give a pause into looking into whether this candidate would further divide the University, or unite the University. I asked this question because I want to see this unity, so that we’re able to see this University continue to glow. Because of the potential controversy of this candidate, I don’t say whether, you know, the candidate is wrong or why we can bring this up, but there is a potential controversy, it exists whether you, whatever position you… whether you are on yellow camp or the blue camp, I don’t care, but the potential controversy exists. And because of a strong political position of this candidate, and I do not have enough confidence that this candidate would probably help to unite, but on the contrary, he probably would further divide. Now this is a senior executive position that’s on academic staffing and resources, I’ve been a chair of HRPC for several years, and I think that this is important that we look for person… I think in a lot of cases during my career to appoint a lot of senior executives, persons can be qualified but may not be suitable. I know this candidate well, he’s a good gentleman, but sometimes for a lot of other reasons, he may not be totally suitable. And I have to say, because of the controversy that exists, because of his strong political position, because of the potential risk of further divide the community, I have to say I do not have enough confidence to accept this recommendation. And I want the candidate, at least, the future PVC or the Vice President, must be able to unite and must not politicize the working place that he is working in. So on that basis, Chairman, I would suggest that we go for another search and I cannot accept the recommendation as proposed. Thank you.

HKU vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson:
Just one comment. I agree with Rosanna’s analysis on the division of Hong Kong in the way that Hong Kong University has been caught up in that, a certain character in time to time when I’ve been in here. It’s not correct to say that what is happening in the University is that we are not moving forward on a strategic development… unfortunately no one is interested in it, the press is not interested in it, no one wants to hear good news stories, everyone wants to hear controversy… There’s a great deal going on, you notice in my report the structured way that I talk about that, just one of the reason about the manifestation. But is any number of new initiatives, any number of exciting developments coming from the new vice president and the new deans and in the, in the relevant level of the staff? It is just not correct for anyone to think that the University of Hong Kong is standing still whilst this controversy rages. That’s not to say I don’t want the controversy over as well, of course I do. I personally don’t think any of the three outcomes I highlighted will be a force for unity, but I do think that, I just want to make a point that, and I think it is my job to continue making this and trying to, every time I’m given the opportunity to speak publicly, it’s a great deal going on, the University of Hong Kong, a great deal of development, we’re not standing still.

Rosanna Wong: Chairman, may I just make one point?

Chairman Edward Leong: Please do, Rosanna.

Rosanna Wong:
Thank you the VC for this, you know, comment. But when I said this I refer particularly to the Council. The Council has no time for discussion on this issue, and every discussion in the Council meeting would be bothered by all these controversies. And therefore in my view, I’m glad to hear that at this University, you know, have some new thinking, and that’s why I just asked you about this strategy which I look forward and I’m particularly interested in move forward the University. I love this University so much, and I’ve served this University for so many years, and this is my alma matar too. And I think we must grab every opportunity to make it so, and that is the reason why I think I do not want to see anybody coming and further divide, I would rather to see the potential of uniting the University. And this is my argument.

Johannes Chan would 'divide' HKU says Council member in new leaked tape