Tsui denies he was forced to quit university
University of Hong Kong vice chancellor Tsui Lap-chee insisted yesterday that his decision to stand down next summer had nothing to do with politics.
His sudden announcement late on Tuesday caught many by surprise and could leave the university rudderless if the university management fails to find a replacement before August when Tsui's contract expires.
Tsui said he would not renew his contract next year after serving two five-year terms. The decision gave rise to speculation as it happened just weeks after he was caught up in a political storm over the visit of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang. Tsui was criticised for allowing police to use heavy-handed tactics to contain protesters during the visit.
Democratic lawmakers are calling for a special Legco meeting to discuss Tsui's departure. But the vice-chancellor yesterday insisted his decision was not politically motivated.
'I'm a geneticist. I know succession and evolution is very important to an organisation such as our university,' he said.
He added that he made the decision after long deliberation.
He was supported by University Council chairman Leong Che-hung, who yesterday denied rumours of a clash with Tsui.
Leong said it was urgent that a successor was found although he admitted that it would be impossible to get a new vice-chancellor within the next 10 months and hoped Tsui could stay on even after his contract expires until a replacement is found.
An HKU spokeswoman said that Tsui was willing to stay on to enable a smooth transition.
A council member, who refused to be named, said that the council would host a special meeting before its regular monthly session on November 22 to discuss the transition.
He said that if Tsui refused to stay after August 31, the university may have to look for a replacement from among his subordinates, such as deputy vice chancellor and provost Roland Chin or one of the four pro-vice-chancellors and vice-presidents.
Tsui admitted the timing of his announcement was questionable.
Leong said that the university would soon start a global hunt for the next vice-chancellor.
HKU lecturers described Tsui as a responsible and down-to-earth chief. Sun Kwok, dean of science, said Tsui was responsible for 'unprecedented achievements' during his tenure.
Student Union president Li Tsz-shu urged Tsui to clarify whether he had been put under pressure when making the decision.
Samuel Li Shing-hong, the student who was detained by police during Li's visit, said Tsui should 'be brave and tell the truth'.
Democratic party legislator Cheung Man-kwong and unionist Lee Cheuk-yan both said Tsui's decision came at a sensitive time and should be further examined.
Tsui, 60, born in Shanghai and a Chinese University alumnus, was a renowned geneticist before becoming the university's 14th vice chancellor.
During his tenure, Hong Kong University has been named Asia's best in a number of university league tables.