A signature campaign has been launched at the University of Hong Kong to push for a referendum to decide whether its student union should continue to be part of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. The federation, of which the HKU Student Union has been a founding member since 1958, is the representative body for student unions at seven universities and colleges in Hong Kong. Chan Chi-kin, the HKU Student Union president in 2004 and one of four former and current students initiating the campaign, said the federation had been having problems for years and the university had been discussing parting from it since 2001. He said the federation, which gets about HK$1 million each year from student unions, lacked a system of checks and balances, with the audit committee being combined with the financial committee. 'No one is monitoring the budget,' he said, adding that about half the funds usually went to the Social Movement Resource Centre, which provides resources to organise social activities. Mr Chan said there had always been differences of opinions among representatives from various institutions. Those differences were highlighted last month, when representatives from the Chinese, Polytechnic and Lingnan universities and Shue Yan College boycotted the federation's meeting with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen because its council chairman, Chan Kai-yip, from HKU, told them not to tell the media or members about it. Chan Chi-kin said he hoped the current situation would prompt students to think about whether separating from the federation would be beneficial to HKU. But HKU's current student union president, Lau Fong, said: 'The federation might have its shortcomings, but we believe it still has its value in society.' Chan Chi-kin said organisers planned to collect 300 signatures to initiate the referendum, the minimum needed under union rules.