80% Vote for HKU’s Autonomy: The Council Should Respect the Voice of Alumni

The Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the HKU Convocation was held successfully on 1 September and all the motions submitted by the “HKU Alumni Concern Group” secured more than 80 percent of the votes. Ip Kin-yuen, the Convenor of the Concern Group, said that this high percentage of “yes” votes gave a very clear and strong signal from the alumni that the University Council should confirm the recommendation made by the Search Committee for the appointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Staffing and Resources) in accordance with established procedures and precedents.

In the EGM, a total of 9,298 votes were cast where 3,402 votes were cast in person. John Wan, the Chairman of HKU Convocation, said that it was the first time since the establishment of the HKU Convocation in 1958 that the EGM was convened by the submission of sufficient number of signatures of the alumni. Concerning the motion 2B and 2C passed in the meeting (please refer to the below table), Wan expected that a working party would be established within one to two months to follow up the issue of amending the law to change the role of Chief Executive in the University.

Ip: Triumph of HKU

Ip says that this was a great triumph of the HKU and this EGM would be a sensational incident in the local history of education. He specially thanks for the support of all HKU staff and alumni. Ip thinks that the voting results are a clear and loud voice of HKU alumni and staff that the HKU Council should no longer turn a deaf ear to the people and should act for the interest of the University. Before the meeting convened by HKU Council on 29 September, the Concern Group will invite every council member individually, to meet and elaborate the ideas and opinions of the Concern Group towards the voting results.

Press Release of the Bureau: Intervention in HKU Internal Affairs

After the EGM, the Education Bureau issued a press release at the same evening to appeal to the community “not to impose pressure on the Council, and not to hinder the normal functioning of the University and the Council.” Ip says that the Government used to be very discreet when talking to the public about the affairs of the tertiary institutions to avoid the interference in their internal operation. However, the proactive response of the Bureau concerning the EGM was violating the principle of institutional autonomy and breaking the precedents of the Bureau. Moreover, Ip also thinks that the accusation is too severe when some HKU Council members put the voting results of the EGM as kind of intimidation to the HKU Council.

The EGM was convened pursuant to the Constitution & Rules of the Convocation and the Statues of the University of Hong Kong, in which the motions were debated and put to vote. Moreover, the Convocation has statutory power to discuss the affairs of the University and submit reports to the Council and the Court. Therefore the voting results can hardly be regarded as “hindering the normal functioning of the University and the Council” Moreover, in the press release it is also put, “In accordance with the statutes of HKU, the Chairman of the Council should be appointed by the CE as Chancellor of HKU …… We consider the present system effective and appeal to different stakeholders to respect and comply with the law.” Nevertheless, the voting results on 1 September already revealed that HKU alumni and staff could no longer entrust the Chief Executive to be the Chancellor of HKU, and can no longer trust that CE can defend the academic freedom and institutional autonomy. The present system is no longer effective, and on the contrary, need to be reformed asap.

Leong: The Appointment on the Meeting Agenda in September

In view of the voting results, Leong Che-hung, the Chairman of the HKU Council said that in the HKU Council meeting of September, the appointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Staffing and Resources) will be on the agenda, but he could not promise that the Pro-Vice-Chancellor would be appointed within 30 days. Ip is very worried that Leong has already foreseen that the appointment process could hardly be finished in September. If the Council finally turns down the recommendation of the Search Committee for the appointment without any convincing reasons, the Concern Group will consider to launch a judicial review on this decision.