Panel to look into alleged leak of HKU surgery test material

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2008, 12:00am

A panel will investigate an alleged leak of questions to students ahead of an exam by a senior professor of surgery at the University of Hong Kong's troubled medical faculty.

On Sunday, some newspapers received an e-mail from someone identified as 'Michael Forever', who claimed the professor had released 12 questions appearing in the exam paper that final-year students were to sit yesterday.

Last night, Raymond Liang Hin-suen, dean of medicine, said a three-member panel would look into the case. It will be chaired by Joseph Lee Hun-wei, the university's pro-vice-chancellor; Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi, a permanent judge on the Court of Final Appeal; and Grace Tang Wai-King, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology.

The faculty said it was 'absolutely impossible' that the staff member at the centre of the allegations had accepted 'interests' in exchange for favouring students in arranging internship postings, as claimed in the e-mail. It also rejected allegations about the academic's personal conduct, saying there was no evidence to support the claims.

Asked if the professor at the centre of the allegations would be suspended, Lo Chung-mau, chair professor of the department of surgery, said the faculty had decided to await the outcome of the panel's investigation before taking the next step. But he said the person did not set the questions.

'There were 12 topics from textbooks, not questions, mentioned in the mail,' Professor Lo said. 'They were wide-ranging and so it would be possible they resembled actual questions in the paper. We're not yet sure where the topics came from.'

He said staff from the department, and in other departments, usually highlighted topics that would be covered in exam questions. The faculty decided on Sunday to drop the original set of question papers and adopt a reserved set, which had been prepared for use in case of emergency.

More than 120 final-year medical students sat the exam, which 'ran smoothly as scheduled' yesterday afternoon, Professor Lo said. Students were given an explanation about what had happened before the exam began.

Kwok Ka-ki, medical sector lawmaker who graduated from the HKU faculty of medicine, said he was saddened by the incident and had never heard of topics being aired before exams, as Professor Lo mentioned.

He saw it as another crisis for the 120-year-old medical school, which has been hit by a number of scandals and staff conflicts.

This month, executive councillor Leong Che-hung, a member of the university's council, said the faculty needed major surgery to uphold its status and improve staff morale.