Liberal law scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun has criticised Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, chairman of the governing Council of the University of Hong Kong, saying that his comments on students were not helping to resolve the conflict. Li was one of the members who rejected Chan’s appointment as pro-vice-chancellor of HKU.
The controversial appointment of Li, a pro-Beijing hardliner, sparked a week-long class boycott last week.
Hundreds of HKU students and members of the public protested last Tuesday, blocking Council members from leaving a meeting venue and demanding they explain why the establishment of a review panel was delayed. Last Thursday, Li called a press conference in response to the protest, saying the students were like people who “took drugs” and took “irrational” actions.
Chan wrote in an op-ed for Ming Pao that the press conference was “meaningless”.
“Arthur Li was fanning the flames, being extremely provocative – it will not resolve the conflict, it will only widen the rift between the students and the school,” wrote Chan.
He added that Li’s accusation that the students were being manipulated by the Civic Party was unfounded.
Li also reiterated at the press conference that Chan was rejected as the deputy chief of HKU because he did not have a doctoral degree.
However, Chan said it meant that the Council considered factors unrelated to the position’s professional requirements, a position which primarily entails human resources management.
Chan also said that the Council did not allow him to attend a meeting to defend his academic work.
“The Council did not do any serious academic assessment, did not even read one paper… The assessment was made by some members who cannot even distinguish civil and criminal offences.”
HKU vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson has condemned the students’ actions and said that the school has sent footage of the protest to the police. Chan, in turn, said that violence should be condemned, but he was “disappointed” by the school’s reaction, questioning whether it was appropriate to involve the police.
‘Stop the smearing’
Meanwhile, a planned meeting between the student class boycott committee and Arthur Li on Wednesday was cancelled.
In a statement, Li said he has shown his “greatest sincerity” in reaching out to the students for a meeting in the past few days.
“The students had made the demand for a meeting with the council chairman in the first place but they then added conditions to that demand. It is reasonable to cast doubt on the sincerity of the students for genuine engagement,” Li said.
But the committee said it had listed all the conditions for the meeting when it was proposed, but had never agreed a time and place.
“We urge the Council to stop the smearing and stop misleading people,” the committee wrote in a statement.