Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen has urged the recommended candidate for Hong Kong University vice-chancellor to reveal his stance on academic freedom.
The school sent emails to its students, staff, and alumni on Wednesday, announcing Chinese-American scholar Zhang Xiang as its recommendation for the next president and vice-chancellor of the school. Zhang will be meeting various stakeholders and answering questions this Friday at the school.
Ip said apart from qualities such as academic excellence, leadership skills, and a global mindset, he and an alumni concern group believe that the candidate must be determined to uphold academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
“He also needs to resist political or abnormal interference both internally and externally,” Ip added. “This is very important.”
Ip said HKU alumni have told him that Zhang may be lacking in governance experience, as there are rumours that he only has experience leading small teams. He called on alumni and other stakeholders to express their opinions to him on Friday, and said he hoped Zhang can make his stance known on issues such as academic freedom so as to ease concerns.
Ip previously said that he did not vote for Zhang.
Chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s Academic Staff Association William Cheung questioned why the school only informed them of the meeting time on Wednesday. Cheung said there was insufficient time to prepare and he believes few will attend the meeting on Friday.
He also said that the time was inappropriate as it was exam season and staff members have to mark papers, suggesting that it to be held in January instead, RTHK reported.
Ming Pao previously reported that in Zhang’s candidacy proposal, he said the university should actively approach mainland Chinese universities and the central government’s education ministry to receive more national funding.
According to Cheung, the staff association will ask Zhang questions relating to employee benefits, institutional autonomy and academic freedom.
Zhang will succeed incumbent vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson, who resigned in February ahead of his contract’s scheduled date of completion in 2019. He is due to leave his post at the end of next month to take the helm at Edinburgh University in Scotland.