New dean ruffles academic feathers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 January, 2000, 12:00am

GRUMBLINGS at Beijing University, where Vice-Premier Qian Qichen last week took up the post of Dean of the Faculty of International Relations.

While most staff and students welcomed the move, some professors complained about double standards.

They are told to quit when they reach 60 while Mr Qian is already 72. That is because high-ranking members of the Beijing hierarchy are exempt from the normal retirement age.

Some professors also grumbled it was inappropriate for a serving political leader to assume such a post and it would be better for him to wait until he stepped down as vice-premier.

But his supporters retort that Mr Qian was not the first to do this. Premier Zhu Rongji was Dean of the Economics Faculty at Qinghua University while still serving as a vice-premier.

Others had a more mercenary argument in favour of Mr Qian's appointment. They hope that his good relations with Hong Kong and foreign tycoons will help raise more money for the university.

Betty Tung Chiu Hung-ping was all smiles when she ran into one of Hong Kong's four Canto-pop kings last week.

'Hello,' she called out to Leon Lai Ming, in full view of the media. 'Come around here.' The teenage idol promptly did so, to join Hong Kong's first lady in planting a 'millennium tree' at a charity drive organised by the Community Chest. Together they presented a picture of harmony to the assembled photographers.

It is only a few weeks since she was taken to task by local entertainment writers for her gaffe in referring to two other big local stars as mat sui. This Cantonese expression roughly translates as 'whatever-their-names-are' and was widely interpreted as belittling Aaron Kwok Fu-shing and Sammy Cheng Sau-mun.

Mrs Tung had to endure several days of controversy over that remark, which she insisted had been misinterpreted, and cynical observers saw last week's public display of friendship towards Lai as an effort to make amends.

But Quarry Bay refuses to believe our first lady would act in such a calculating manner. No doubt she was just trying to be friendly.

Meanwhile Leung Chun-ying, the front runner to be the next Chief Executive, has revealed he was not very smart as a student.

Not in the classroom but out on the soccer field. At a reunion with King's College alumni, the Executive Council convenor recalled how all his classmates were much brighter than him.

While they all pretended to be no good at goal-keeping, Mr Leung said he was too dumb to do likewise and ended up guarding the net.

Nor did he prove very good, helping his team lose 11-0 in a memorable match against La Salle College.

But Mr Leung had the last laugh as the school chose to blame his team-mates for not scoring a single goal while his role in their defeat was ignored.

Secretary for Planning and Lands Gordon Siu Kwing-chue had another revelation to make at the same reunion. Apparently he used to get into fights at King's College.

But Mr Siu never came out of these badly because he could always rely on his adopted 'big brother' Tsang Shu-ki, now a prominent academic at Baptist University, to protect him.