More recordings from closed meetings of the governing University of Hong Kong (HKU) Council have been leaked to local media, just one day ahead of Arthur Li Kwok-cheung’s anticipated appointment as Council chairman.
In the tapes, secretly recorded at meetings on November 12 and 24, Li says that Council members hold divergent views on public accountability and freedom of the press.
He is then heard challenging them “if they got the courage, to come out and say ‘Yes I believe this is freedom of whatever’.”
“These people are all bad guys that are hiding,” Li then adds. “Quite honestly, I have nothing to hide. I’m very happy to have everything I said—including this meeting—released to the public.”
Li also sugests that the Council emphasise to the public that it did not apply for the injunction “in order to hide something.”
No more confidentiality
At the November 24 recordings, Li is also heard discussing HKU Student Union (HKUSU) president Billy Fung Jing-en, who earlier revealed the contents of the Council meeting in which liberal law scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun’s appointment as pro-vice-chancellor was voted down.
The Council subsequently barred Fung from future confidential meetings in October after his breach of confidentiality.
Li tells the body that if Fung cannot sign the code of confidentiality, he cannot see how the Council can return to any restricted or confidential items.
“Do we accept the fact that his reason is openness, transparency and public interest?” Li asked. “Now we accept that, fine. We can take a vote on that and accept that. Then in that case there will be no more confidentiality in this Council… this is a fundamental change of policy of this university.”
“If on the other hand we don’t accept his mitigation, then we will say… you are now excluded from all confidentiality. It is really as simple as that, my chairman,” he concludes.
Fung, along with another HKU Student Union member, filed two judicial reviews on Tuesday to challenge the Council’s rejection of Johannes Chan’s appointment.
The chairmanship of the Council, rumoured to go to Li as early at Thursday, has been left vacant since November 6 with the end of Edward Leong Che-hung’s term.
The tapes, leaked to Apple Daily, come after five previous recordings form Council meetings were leaked. The Council has applied for an injunction to cover the content of meetings held between June 30 and November 6.
You are very clear in what you have just told us. But I think there’s only one side of it. Obviously there are some members of this council, member or members of this council, who is holding a very different view in terms of public accountability, public’s right to know, freedom of the press and so on.
I would like, at this point, to challenge that whether who will do come out and try to convince us their positions. Because this is what council meeting is about — discussion, alright? So if they have the courage to believe that what they have done is correct, I would like to challenge that person or persons to come out and say what I did that because I believe that and the reason I need you to believe.
So that it may convince some of us, to say, ‘Look, the injunction was wrong and maybe we shouldn’t have an injunction.’Other than just hearing one side, I’d like to say whoever it is who did the recording or know about the recording come out and defend, or at least have the courage to put their case to this council.
Yes Chairman this is exactly the point I try to refer it, it was that we just keep hearing from legal advisor telling us this is it or that. I haven’t heard an opposing view to that, alright?
And I think in a discussion, which is what the council should be, I would like to hear an opposing view. And obviously, some people who are very passionate about this to go to the trouble of secretly illicitly recording council proceeding— probably right now! I would like to see… if they got the courage to come out and say ‘Yes I believe this is freedom of whatever!’ So I put the challenge to them.
Thank you Chairman. I think one of the…firstly I ought to state a conflict of interest that… I’d like to declare it first. I see it as two important issues. One I agree with the first thing that it is the reputation of the university that we believe in confidentiality to protect other people not so much ourselves.
But the second important issue I think is that we must have a better public relation, because, at the moment, it makes as if we’re trying to keep confidential in order to hide something, that we have something that we should look out. So it is transparency.
Oh! These people are all bad guys that are hiding. And quite honestly, I have nothing to hide. I’m very happy to have everything I said including this meeting to be released to the public. But at the same time the whole emphasis is that we are hiding something, we are doing something underhand. And I think if we take the root that we are gonna uphold confidentiality we have to be very clear in our public relation that we’re not doing it in order to hide something.
Now it is mitigation, whether you accept it or not, he believes in transparency and openness. And then, for he would make decision on every item, whether he would disclose confidentiality. In other words, for every item in the future, we will have to rely on his judgment to say, you know, this is openness and I am gonna disclose so and so or so and so said and so on.
I think this is a fundamental breach of collective responsibility which, according to our code, is paramount. We may disappoint you to certain decision, but if we disagree with certain decisions because of openness and transparency, we argue it out in this meeting; we don’t go outside of this meeting.
If you could not keep this, I cannot see how we could go back to any restricted or confidential items until he is prepared to say that he is going to lead part of the collective responsibility, unless he is going to sign the code of confidentiality. I cannot see how we can have a member here and we wasted an hour just arguing over this and each time, each meeting we would get arguing over this again and again.
So, lets be very clear to say that, yes, you have breached confidentiality. And now the question is: do we accept the fact that his reason is openness, transparency and public interest? Now we accept that, fine. We can take a vote on that and accept that. Then in that case there will be no more confidentiality in this council, alright? And this is a fundamental change of policy of this university.
If on the other hand we don’t accept his mitigation, then we will say, stop what we want and you are now excluded from all confidentiality. It is really as simple as that my chairman.