Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has told Hong Kong businesses not to donate to local universities, according to Now TV.
The local broadcaster cited unnamed sources as saying that “on several closed-door occasions” Leung has urged the rich to fund scientific research instead, on the grounds that Leung thought Hong Kong universities already had abundant resources and “too many teaching staff”, the report said.
The CE, who, thanks to a colonial legacy, is the nominal head of all tertiary institutions, has experienced strained relations with local universities over the last year due to various controversies concerning academic freedom.
The most important example of these is the ongoing dispute over the rejection by the University of Hong Kong’s governing Council in September of the recommendation that law professor Johannes Chan Mun-man be appointed as a pro-vice-chancellor. Members of the HKU Council who are close to Leung’s government attacked the pro-democracy professor in a closed door meeting, leaked recordings of the meeting revealed. Alumni, students and faculty protested against the HKU Council’s decision, accusing the government of interfering in academic freedom.
In the aftermath of the controversy, many have called for the scrapping of the rule which gives the CE chancellor status of all the city’s universities.
The position of chair of the HKU Council has been vacant since November when former chairman Edward Leong Che-hung’s term ended. Former education minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, a pro-Beijing hardliner, is widely believed to be Leung’s favourite as next HKU Council chief. The CE is likely to announce Li’s appointment on Thursday, New Year’s Eve, Now TV said.