The education sector lawmaker has called on University of Hong Kong Vice-Chancellor Peter Mathieson to provide further details after he claimed in an interview on Monday that he received advice from Beijing’s Hong Kong-based officials.
Mathieson – whose tenure ends this month – told the SCMP that he also met with Chief Executive Carrie Lam and mainland Chinese Ministry of Education officials, adding that it was part of his job.
On Monday, pro-democracy education legislator Ip Kin-yuen told reporters that the situation to which Mathieson referred was potentially very serious.
“In the Hong Kong Basic Law there are two articles that specifically deal with higher education,” he said. “Article 137 says that educational institutions of all kinds may retain their autonomy and enjoy academic freedom.”
“Another is Article 22, which says that no department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the central government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own.”
“I am not saying that the Liaison Office, the Hong Kong government or the chief executive cannot have any communication with universities,” he added. “But if it consists of giving advice, then this might constitute meddling, interference or oppression.”
Ip called on both Mathieson and the mainland and Hong Kong governments to reveal more details about the contents of their discussions.
“[Mathieson] has spoken about these issues at the very last moment of his tenure in Hong Kong,” said Ip. “I believe they merit our attention. He would not say these things for no reason.”
Answers requested: outgoing HKU VC/president Professor Peter Mathieson has set off a firestorm in the media today for…
“In the past, the Hong Kong government was very cautious in communicating with any higher education officials, and it would minimise communication,” he added.
After leaving the University of Hong Kong, the 58-year-old medical scholar will become vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
HKFP has contacted the chief executive’s office for comment.