Paul Morris says chief executive could have defended HK's autonomy to the world Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen 'missed a great opportunity' to defend academic autonomy in the eyes of the world the day ICAC chief Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun resigned, says the former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Education. Paul Morris, who resigned as HKIEd president this month, made the claim while speaking for the first time about the 39-day, HK$25 million commission of inquiry into allegations of government interference in the institute's affairs. The inquiry, sparked by an essay on the institute's intranet in February by former academic vice-president Bernard Luk Hung-kay after the institute's council ruled not to renew Professor Morris's contract, found allegations against Mrs Law - that she made phone calls to silence or call for the sacking of critics of government policy - to have been 'partially' established. Allegations against former secretary for education and manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, that he tried to force a merger between the institute and Chinese University, were rejected, although the commission questioned his credibility as a witness. He was later replaced as minister by Michael Suen Ming-yeung. On the day Mrs Law resigned, Mr Tsang said he had tried to persuade her to reconsider. 'It is a matter of tremendous regret and sadness that Mrs Law has applied for early retirement,' he said. 'I have absolutely no doubt on Mrs Law's credibility and trustworthiness as a person.' Mr Tsang's remarks were at odds with the commission's finding, that it was improper for someone of Mrs Law's position to attempt to silence critics by addressing them personally or through superiors.Professor Morris said it was 'a great pity' Mr Tsang had not seized the opportunity to play up the positive benefits of the inquiry to Hong Kong. 'His PR department should have told him, 'Here is an opportunity to talk to the world and not to Mrs Law, and say we respect academic autonomy, we have accepted her resignation'.' He should have spoken as a statesman rather than a civil servant. 'He could have declared to the world that we accept the rule of law and not the abuse of power. But he wasn't willing to offend. That was out of order.' Professor Morris said the inquiry represented 'a great challenge to the oligarchy who feel they have the right to run Hong Kong'. 'The inquiry wasn't a whitewash, which was my fear,' he said. He also criticised Mrs Law's comments that the inquiry sent 'shivers down the spines' of civil servants who were often 'targets of attack' from sectoral interests. He said he was 'taken aback' by civil servants complaining that making threatening phone calls was being questioned. 'If you don't phone up and make threats in future then, good. You shouldn't be doing that,' he said. 'I say to them, you're paid by the public to do a job, you're not some sort of elite ruling class.' A spokesman for the Chief Executive's Office refused to comment.