Let’s respect some basic facts in University of Hong Kong saga

Alex Lo responds to a letter from former chief secretary for administration Anson Chan that criticised his column on Johannes Chan Man-mun

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 December, 2015, 2:49am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

Dear Mrs Anson Chan,

As a rule, I don’t publicly reply to readers, as they are free to agree or disagree with my column. But you are no ordinary reader. I am flattered that an august democracy icon like you took the time to write a long rebuttal to a column I wrote recently on Johannes Chan Man-mun, the controversial legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong and your colleague at your think tank, Hong Kong 2020. You can see your letter has been published in today’s letters page. But while it’s touching that you go out of your way to defend a friend, I think we – you and I – should at least respect some basic facts. You raise three points that I supposedly manufactured against Professor Chan.

First, you wrote that it was inaccurate for me to say he claimed he didn’t want the pro-vice-chancellor job at HKU. Well, commenting on his nomination, this is what he wrote in an open, Chinese-language letter published on RTHK on August 1: “If it were only an issue to do with my personal career, I would have withdrawn already. I have never been enthusiastic about the job.” That’s quite different from what you claimed was his fondness for the job he didn’t get.

Second, you wrote I wrongly implied the professor supported his HKU law colleague Benny Tai Yiu-ting’s Occupy Central campaign. Come again? Do I take it that you believed Professor Chan did not support Tai’s political campaign? Referring to last year’s protests and his own HKU nomination, Professor Chan was quoted by Reuters in September as saying: “They are trying to send a message that if someone is sympathetic to Occupy Central ... there will be repercussions.” If Professor Chan really did not support Occupy Central, that would be news to me and many others.

There was also the small matter of his failure to supervise Tai over the latter’s handling of donations of HK$1.45 million at HKU, some of which was channelled to fund Occupy -related activities.

Lastly, you said Chan did nothing to encourage students and supporters to fight on his behalf, contrary to my claim. But he had said on more than one occasion that the fight for his appointment was for HKU’s autonomy and academic freedom, and against political interference. I think that counted as encouragement, even provocation.

Yours truly,

Alex Lo
alex.lo@scmp.com