Community & Education Hong Kong Politics & Protest

No promises on academic freedom as HKU court votes to review confidentiality rule

The University of Hong Kong Council will review its strict confidentiality rule in future meetings, a spokesperson from the school’s governing body said on Thursday.

Education sector lawmaker and HKU Alumni Concern Group convenor Ip Kin-yuen proposed four motions at the court’s annual meeting. These included reviewing the confidentiality rule and signing a charter on academic freedom.

Ip agreed to withdraw three of the motions after the Council’s spokesperson Abraham Shek Lai-him pledged to put the issues on the agenda at future meetings.

However, Ip’s fourth motion on reviewing the University’s governance framework was voted down.

Ip had suggested that the University sign the Magna Charta Universitatum, a document which serves as a reference for universities’ fundamental values and principles—in particular institutional autonomy and academic freedom.

ip kin yuen

Ip Kin-yuen. Photo: Apple Daily.

“I think it [signing the Magna Charta Universitatum] is a very good opportunity for the university to reconfirm its commitment to academic freedom and institutional autonomy,” Ip said earlier. The charter has been signed by 755 universities in 80 countries since it was first proposed in 1986.

In a speech to the court, HKU vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson said the university does not have complete institutional autonomy and should not expect it.

“We are a publicly funded institution and it is entirely appropriate that we are responsible to the public, and hence to the government that represents them, to assess, justify and adjust our activities according to societal impact and need,” he said.

Recordings of speeches made by three Council members—Arthur Li, Leoni Ki and Lo Chung-mau—were leaked online after a controversial meeting on September 29. At the meeting, the governing body rejected the appointment of former law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun‘s appointment to HKU’s pro-vice-chancellorship.

No promises on academic freedom as HKU court votes to review confidentiality rule