A politically outspoken executive councillor has been named to the body that advises on university funding, raising strong opposition from tertiary educators who see the appointment as a threat to their autonomy.
Beijing-loyalist Cheung Chi-kong, 53, a supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, was appointed to the University Grants Committee for a three-year term on Monday but the decision was not announced until yesterday.
Earlier reports said Leung planned to appoint Cheung in January but stopped because critics had accused him of having a "red" background.
Professional Teachers' Union president Fung Wai-wah described the appointment yesterday as "furtive and disrespectful".
But Cheung came out fighting, saying: "I don't know which part of me is 'red'. Produce the evidence if you can."
Cheung , executive director of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute, was criticised for his attacks on student group Scholarism during the campaign last year to have the national-education curriculum scrapped.
He also wrote columns last year criticising the University of Hong Kong's poll on the chief executive's popularity.
Cheung said the design of the questions was "illogical" and they could be misinterpreted. Describing the appointment as "furtive", Fung said he was worried that it might affect the quality of higher education.
"If a member of the grants committee has such a strong political background, its funding decisions will not be persuasive any more," he said. He suspects Cheung may have a "political mission" to suppress liberal scholars.
Civic Party lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, who is an associate professor at Baptist University, said: "Cheung has no academic or research background ... it's not appropriate to appoint a layman to be a member of the committee."
The grants committee advises the government on the development and funding needs of public higher education institutions.