Appointment of pro-Beijing scholar stirs up students at OpenU

Student union to hold sit-in over appointment of NPC deputy Wong Yuk-shan as president

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 8:44pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 9:14pm

Open University students are protesting against the selection of a pro-Beijing scholar as the university’s president, the second protest in a week by students angered over a lack of say in the choice of their institution’s head.

The university council is on Thursday expected to approve the appointment of University of Science and Technology vice-president and National People’s Congress deputy Wong Yuk-shan as president.

The university student union will stage a sit-in during the meeting.

Union president Chan Pui-hei said the selection process was opaque and many students did not know about it. Although Chan is a council member, he said he did not have a vote on the appointment.

The university refused to comment, saying it would make an announcement after the council meeting.

The council shouldn’t have rushed to hold the consultation meeting ... [and]  I, as a council member, was only informed at the same time as other students.
Chan Pui-hei, student union president

The students’ action comes after Lingnan University students on Monday protested against the appointment of Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon, a former adviser to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s election campaign, as president, saying they may boycott classes when the new term begins in September in protest against the appointment.

Chan said he did not know Wong was the final candidate until June 6, when the committee e-mailed all students about a consultation meeting to be held on June 13.

“The council shouldn’t have rushed to hold the consultation meeting,” Chan said. “Very few students check their school e-mail accounts during holidays. It’s also unfair that I, as a council member, was only informed at the same time as other students.”

Chan said only 30 of the university’s 20,000 students went to the consultation meeting and Wong took little time to answer their questions.

Wong, 64, a life science professor, is chairman of the Consumer Council, a member of the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee, vice-chairman of the Federation of Fujian Associations and chairman of the Society of Hong Kong Scholars.

He supported the now-shelved national education programme that sparked widespread protests and was condemned by critics as “brainwashing”.

Chan said he feared Wong, with a strong pro-establishment background, would threaten freedom of speech.