Lawmakers want inquiry into interference claims

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2007, 12:00am

A group of pan-democratic legislators has called for a meeting of the Legislative Council education panel to discuss alleged government interference in academic autonomy.

In a letter to panel chairman Tsang Yok-sing, the eight legislators demanded an investigation into the growing controversy over the decision of the Institute of Education's governing council last month not to reappoint president Paul Morris.

Their call came ahead of a landslide student vote of no confidence in Thomas Leung Kwok-fai, chairman of the council, which is dominated by government appointees. About a third of students at the institute voted, with 680 saying they did not trust Dr Leung and 36 saying they did. There were 65 abstentions.

The legislators said yesterday in the letter that allegations this week by Bernard Luk Hung-kay, academic vice-president of the institute, about government interference were of a serious nature and a public concern.

Professor Luk claimed, among other things, that education minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung requested the sacking of four academics who had criticised education reforms and had threatened to cut the institute's student quota if Professor Morris did not agree on a merger with Chinese University.

The legislators want a panel meeting to be held before Lunar New Year to investigate the allegations. They suggested a Legco select committee be set up, or that the chief executive set up a commission of inquiry or an independent commission chaired by a judge.

Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said: 'These allegations were not lightly made. On the other hand, they were denied by Professor Li, who presented himself as a victim.' The eight legislators are Cheung Man-kwong, Sin Chung-kai, Yeung Sum, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung and Emily Lau Wai-hing.