CityU accused of suppressing staff union

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 August, 2011, 12:00am


A staff union has accused City University of suppressing freedom of speech after it was given one month's notice to vacate its office.

The City University Staff Association was told the room was required for other purposes, but it has not been assigned another place.

Union chairman Professor John Tse Wing-ling said the notice was the latest in a series of moves designed to stifle the union.

'At this moment in time, the school has the most space in its history. I don't understand why they have to take our office away,' Tse said.

CityU is about to unveil two new academic buildings, with one ready for use by September 1.

The union's office covers about 2,000 square feet and has been used for six years.

CityU denied it was suppressing the union's freedom of speech, saying it had allowed the union to advertise a rally over the removal notice and to rally yesterday. It declined to say what the room would be used for.

Tensions have been increasing between the two sides. In April, the union compiled a study of university president Way Kuo's performance. Management forbade the union from releasing the results and warned in a letter that it might be charged with libel if it did so.

'We asked them which part of the study was libellous, but they didn't tell us,' Tse said. The union sent the study findings to Kuo but received no response.

CityU later said it would no longer collect annual fees from the 1,500 union members because the union had failed to hold its annual general meeting this year, at which it should have presented an auditor's report. CityU stressed that the meeting was a 'serious and essential obligation'. The fee is HK$50 to HK$70 a year, usually collected in October.

'It's a dirty trick,' Tse said, reasoning that membership numbers and funds would dwindle if the university did not collect the fees.

CityU said the association had 'failed to comply on a number of occasions with university procedures and policies, spreading inaccurate, misleading and, in certain cases, potentially defamatory messages capable of damaging the university's reputation and the reputations of some of its staff members'.

It said executive leaders of the union had been invited to explain its alleged actions to the Council, CityU's top governing body, five times since July last year. One member attended a meeting in June but did not offer any explanation.

Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, who is general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions, attended the rally yesterday. He hoped to mobilise staff members to protect the union and demand their office back.