University of Hong Kong alumni group backing reforms gains majority in school’s advisory body

All six candidates aligned with HKU Alumni Concern Group win seats, giving reformers 13 seats on 24-person standing committee

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 2:56pm

A pressure group pushing for governance reforms at Hong Kong’s oldest university has taken a major step forward after gaining a majority in an advisory body to the school’s governing council.

All six candidates aligned with the HKU Alumni Concern Group were elected on Thursday into the standing committee of the University of Hong Kong Convocation. The alumni group now has 13 seats on the 24-person committee, with six voted in last year, and another the year before.

The result enables the group to “pool the views of alumni through the platform of the convocation to promote reforms of the university’s governance structure and other related work”, the group said on its Facebook page.

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The other two newly elected members of the body – comprising the university’s graduates, teaching staff, and management – are not from the group. They are Keith Kiu Wai-fung and Agnes Ip Yuen-yu.

A total of 5,271 voters cast ballots this year, up from last year’s 2,973. Voters were allowed to select up to eight candidates from the 14 who ran.

The six supported by the group received between and 2,903 and 3,062 votes. The other two received 2,062 and 2,110 votes.

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The six included Gloria Chang Wan-ki, student union president in 2000 and an advocate for the resignation of then-vice-chancellor Professor Cheng Yiu-chung; King Chan Ka-kin, who founded HKU Convocation Monitor to stay abreast of the body’s activities; and Sze Yuk-shing, a former student union vice-president.

They are joined by Alan Cheung Ka-lun, a former student union executive committee member and editorial committee member of the student publication Undergrad; journalism professor Dr Fu King-wa; and litigation solicitor Dantes Leung Wing-chak.

The group seeks governance reforms to protect institutional autonomy and advocates stripping the city’s chief executive of his or her power to appoint the council’s chairman and other council members.

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The group also aims to gather alumni views in the selection of the next university president; an election looms this summer for an alumni representative on the selection committee. Education lawmaker and group convenor Ip Kin-yuen has expressed interest in running for the position.

Current HKU president Peter Mathieson announced his resignation in February, two years before his contract was to expire, and is due to take the helm at Scotland’s Edinburgh University. His early departure followed recent years of tension and clashes between the university’s governing body and students amid allegations of political interference in academic freedom.

According to the university’s ordinance, the convocation has the power to elect members of the court – the supreme advisory body of the university – from its ranks. The court elects two people to the council.

The convocation may also communicate directly with the council, court or senate on any matter affecting the university.