Lingnan students' request for open vote for president rejected
Lingnan University council chairman Bernard Chan on Tuesday rejected students’ request for an open "one-man-one-vote" election to elect their president.
The appointment of the university’s new president Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon, dean of the University of Science and Technology’s school of business and economics, sparked anger from students who said they had no say in the current selection process.
Students have expressed concerns over Cheng's ties with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and fear he may have a political mission to discipline outspoken academics at the university.
Cheng was a Leung adviser and one of the 11 members of Leung’s election campaign team. He is also part of a think tank that was formed by pro-government lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun to discuss political reform and universal suffrage.
If Cheng's appointment stands, the students have warned they might boycott classes at the start of the new academic year in September.
“They want one-man-one-vote,” said Chan in a radio programme on Tuesday. “I’m also a board member of an American university. [And] in a democratic country [like the US] … they don’t have the right to a one-man-one-vote method of choosing their president either.”
Chan said it was difficult for the students to elect their president on a universal suffrage basis – or even the council chairperson, who is now appointed directly by the chief executive – but he agreed that student representatives should be given the right to vote on future presidents.
In October last year, the university council set up a nine-member committee to search for a new president to succeed Professor Chan Yuk-shee, who resigned amid accusations of excessive enrolments while denying that the row had anything to do with his decisions.
At Lingnan, a government-funded liberal arts university, Cheng held on Monday what the university called a consultation session with about 300 university staff and students just before he was appointed by the university’s council. At the meeting, students chanted slogans against Cheng and interrupted him from time to time.
"The whole [appointment] process went on for four months, with many staff and students not able to join today’s consultation," Lingnan student union president Vivian Yip Wing-lam said on Monday. "But the appointment was announced right after the so-called consultation."
“Some students have to improve on the way they talk and their attitude,” Chan said on Tuesday. “As a university, it’s a platform for people to exchange [thoughts], it’s not good to hurl abuses.”