Occupy Central

Students 'free to join Occupy Central', says Open University's new president

New chief says he wouldn't stop anyone from taking part - but they should abide by the law

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 4:07am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 9:13am

Open University's incoming president, Professor Wong Yuk-shan, has reiterated that he would not stop his students from joining the Occupy Central civil-disobedience movement.

But if they did, he said, they should abide by the law.

"I would not stop them from taking part. Students have their own views [on Occupy Central]," Wong said, referring to plans to block Central if the government fails to come up with an acceptable plan to implement universal suffrage for the 2017 chief executive election. "Hong Kong is a city with rule of law, so everyone should abide by it."

The National People's Congress deputy and Basic Law Committee member - whose new job sparked concerns about freedom of speech at the university because of his links to Beijing - expressed similar views when he was appointed last year.

Yesterday, he said he had no "political colour", but "unfortunately things are politicised in Hong Kong".

Wong, currently vice-president of the University of Science and Technology, was speaking on the sidelines of the NPC session in Beijing. He will start his four-year term at Open University on April 1.

Referring to pan-democrats' demands for public nomination - under which voters would have the right to nominate chief executive candidates - he said further debate was "unnecessary" after remarks by Zhang Dejiang , the top official in charge of Hong Kong affairs.

"Zhang was clear enough … Public nomination does not comply with Article 45 of the Basic Law," Wong said. The clause states that the chief executive should be nominated by a "broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures".

Zhang, chairman of the NPC and head of the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs, said last week that the push for democracy must be gradual and orderly, and the reform must be in accordance with the state's constitution and the Basic Law.

Politics aside, Wong admitted he faced an immense challenge in consolidating the growth attained by his predecessor, Professor John Leong Chi-yan.

"Leong has done a very good job and I hope to follow suit," he said, referring to the medical professor who now heads the Hospital Authority. The university's on-campus student numbers have jumped from 200 to 7,000 since Leong took office in 2003.

"There is a smaller demand for distance learning as there are fewer secondary school dropouts now," Wong said, adding that he hoped enrolments in the university's new programmes in creative industries, certification and medical services would grow to 2,400 from the present 700.