Be patient with HKU council over choice of pro-vice-chancellor

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 July, 2015, 3:56pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 July, 2015, 4:31pm

The decision by the University of Hong Kong council to postpone the appointment of the pro-vice-chancellor has sparked much protest and criticism.

To be honest, the council's reason for doing so - to await the hiring of a provost who could give "input" on the issue ("HKU alumni to meet urgently over manager post", July 26), is unusual, so it was right to raise concerns. However, we should also be less quick to judge. Perhaps the university council has a valid reason for needing more time for deliberation.

It has every power within its jurisdiction not to promote anyone whom it considers inappropriate. So if there are real objections to the appointment, the council could simply vote him out. The fact it has not exercised that power but instead postponed the decision may indicate that it has some areas of concerns it needs to clear up, while trying to uphold the principle of justice.

My experience working in the Independent Commission Against Corruption, where I last held the post of deputy commissioner, has taught me that we can't take things at face value.

For example, we came across cases where a government department had asked the ICAC to do an integrity check on a candidate for a senior post. Yet our checking might reveal that the person was under ongoing investigation on allegations of corruption. However, the investigation might be in a preliminary stage, with no conclusion yet.

In those circumstances, the head of the government department would be briefed on a strictly confidential basis that the person was under investigation, with a clear directive that that fact should not be divulged. In most cases, the department would postpone the appointment.

I am not suggesting for one minute that the subject person in this current debacle is currently under investigation, by the ICAC or otherwise. I have been retired from the ICAC for 13 years and am in no position to be aware of any investigation. I am only using this as an example to illustrate the problem that the council could be facing.

We should exercise patience with the council. Sooner or later, it will have to come up with a decision, and it knows that it has to justify its decision to the public and all stakeholders. Let us have faith with the council chairman and members, and wait and see the outcome before deciding to take any dramatic protest action.

Tony Kwok Man-wai, Tai Po