My Take

Making a mountain out of a uni appointment molehill

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 1:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 8:37am

In a normal world, most of us would have zero interest as to who gets appointed to the post of pro-vice-chancellor at a local university.

It is, after all, in charge of such "exciting" issues as staff recruitment and academic resources. Someone wake me up, please.

But this is Hong Kong, where everything gets politicised. So it has attracted endless headlines in recent months that a pro-democracy legal scholar was slated for the post at the University of Hong Kong.

The pro-Beijing leftist press has tried to make mincemeat of the poor professor, Johannes Chan Man-mun. Predictably, the pro-democracy camp has retaliated by turning his appointment, now delayed, into a cause célèbre.

The HKU council this week voted 12-6 to leave the position vacant for now, with reportedly at least four pro-government members speaking in favour of the delay.

That may seem a victory of sort, but I think it's fair to say the leftist salvos from such papers as Wen Wei Po have actually backfired. It has led to calls for revamping the whole governance system of the university, including reviewing how members are selected to the powerful council.

Some respected academics have even questioned whether the chief executive should continue to be the nominal head of the city's publicly funded universities. So much for the attacks on Professor Chan, who in the larger scheme of things, is just small fry. In any case, he was politically a moderate, unlike his law colleague, Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting.

Granted, Chan was tainted by Tai's dodgy donation scheme at HKU involving HK$1.45 million, some of which was used for Occupy activities. That, however, was mostly Tai's fault and could have been easily overlooked for Chan. But because the leftist press has put its foot down, its friends inside the council have to stall Chan's appointment like good soldiers.

In reality, the job and who gets it is politically insignificant. The leftists have made a mountain out of a molehill by targeting Chan. It's time for the pro-Beijing camp to drop the whole thing and let the normal appointment process take its course.