City's universities won't put out welcome mat for chief executive

Representatives of tertiary institute unions say they will not greet chief executive with open arms at graduation days and may challenge him

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 3:16am

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is set to receive an "unwelcome" or even "unfriendly" reception from students of half of the city's eight major tertiary institutions if he attends their graduation days later this year.

The blunt warning comes from the student unions of the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University, Baptist University and City University, although Leung's office has not said whether he will attend the ceremonies, to be held between October and December.

The Chief Executive Office suggested, in reply to a South China Morning Post query about his attendance, checking with the institutions instead.

Under the ordinances of the eight institutions, the chief executive is the default chancellor, who will confer degrees and academic awards in their names. That obliges them to invite him to their convocations.

But student unions at the four institutions are not laying out the welcome mat this year. They share the view that Leung's presence looks set to trigger protests or other forms of unfriendly treatment towards him.

Eason Chung Yiu-wa, president of the Chinese University union, said the body did not welcome Leung to the campus.

"C.Y. was not elected by Hong Kong people and is not widely accepted," Chung said. "He does not even have the courage to face protests and refuses to listen to demands from the community."

His counterpart at CityU, Timothy Lee Ho-yin, said: "We welcome everyone, no matter what political stance they hold, to our campus as it's open to the public. But we will voice our demands on pressing issues if he does come to preside [over the graduation]. If the public consultation for universal suffrage for the chief executive in 2017 has not been rolled out yet, we will urge him to start it right away."

Since taking the city's top post in July last year, Leung has attended convocations at HKU, CityU and the Institute of Education. He had not appeared at any official functions at Chinese University, BaptistU, Lingnan University or the University of Science and Technology, those institutions said.

CityU's Lee said: "I hope the school will make appropriate arrangements for a rally if Leung does come. We don't want to see a repeat of the incident in May."

In May, about 30 students from different universities protested on the CityU campus in Kowloon Tong to demand that Leung resign. He was attending the opening of an academic building and the students were forcefully removed by guards.

At the HKU and BaptistU student bodies, vice-president Alex Chow Yong-kang and president Michelle Fung Ching-man said Leung's poor performance and low popularity meant some students would not welcome him.

Lingnan union president Vivian Yip Wing-lam said: "Leung was elected by a small circle [the Election Committee] and does not have the public's mandate."

The student unions of HKUST, PolyU and the Institute of Education could not be reached for comment.