Journalism professor questions choice of Briton as HKU head

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 10:58am

A University of Hong Kong professor says she is concerned that the academic nominated to head the college has scant knowledge of either Hong Kong or China.

Writing on her blog yesterday, Professor Chan Yuen-ying, director of HKU's Journalism and Media Studies Centre, asked how the candidate, Briton Peter Mathieson, could safeguard the university's academic freedom with "a complete lack of understanding" of Chinese society and history.

"We are not without worries about Hong Kong's freedom of speech and academic freedom," Chan wrote.

"But if a medical professor from the British city of Bristol, with a population of 430,000, is to parachute into Hong Kong to … safeguard our freedom, that's a big joke."

The university on Monday said Mathieson, the dean of medicine and dentistry at the University of Bristol, had been recommended by an 11-member selection committee to be the institution's next head.

In support of the nomination on Monday, Dr Leong Che-hung, chairman of the university's selection committee, said Mathieson had experience heading a big faculty and carrying out reform.

Chan's criticism came ahead of Mathieson's meeting today with students, staff, alumni and the senate, before the university council decides tomorrow whether to endorse the selection committee's recommendation.

If accepted, Mathieson would become the first expatriate vice chancellor of the city's top university in over a decade.

Chan also alleged in her blog that Mathieson was careless in his application and failed to tailor his curriculum vitae for the Hong Kong post. She said this showed that his sincerity in applying for the job was "questionable".