Call for probe into departure of HKU chief

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 November, 2011, 12:00am


A lawmaker and member of the University of Hong Kong's top advisory body is calling for an independent investigation into vice-chancellor Professor Tsui Lap-chee's abrupt decision to quit.

Legislator James To Kun-sun, a member of the HKU Court, said yesterday he would write to fellow court members calling for an investigation committee to be set up. The court, chaired by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, is the top advisory body to HKU's governing council.

According to the University of Hong Kong Ordinance, the court can discuss university policies or set up appropriate committees in the course of its work. But it cannot override the decisions of HKU's council, which heard last month that Tsui was going to leave.

But To may encounter serious hurdles, as some court members oppose an inquiry.

Court member and legislator Pan Pey-chyou, said it would be 'inappropriate' for the advisory body to discuss Tsui's departure. 'Professor Tsui has already explained his reasons ... We should respect that. The court is not the appropriate body to discuss the matter,' he said.

Another court member, legislator Ip Kwok-him, said he would not agree to the setting up of an investigation. 'We should not bring political disputes to a university,' he said. The court's membership includes five legislators, members of the HKU council and dozens of others.

But several HKU alumni threw their support behind To and issued a joint letter yesterday raising questions about Tsui's departure. The letter, signed by 15 Democratic Party members - including chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan and former leaders Martin Lee Chu-ming and Dr Yeung Sum - said the university council must explain why it did not try to persuade Tsui to stay.

Yeung said yesterday that an investigation should examine whether politics was involved. 'If the central government is [working] behind the scenes, it would set a very bad precedent for the operation of universities in Hong Kong,' he said. Tsui made a sudden announcement last month that he would not seek reappointment when his term expired next August. He has offered to stay until his replacement is found.

Tsui has denied that his departure is down to politics, but his decision came after controversy over the treatment of protestors during the visit of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang in August, for which Tsui apologised several times.

Meanwhile, former vice-chancellor Wang Gungwu yesterday said Tsui's departure was understandable because he would have served the university for some 10 years by next year. He praised Tsui's contribution.

Another court member, who is not a member of a political party, said that the university should be free from political wrangling. 'We, just like everyone in Hong Kong, should learn to accept others. Mistakes may have been made in this case, but lessons have already been learnt.'