My Take

At University of Hong Kong, an unbecoming row over pennies

Accusations of corruption in council election exposes an underbelly of bigotry – that mainland students can be bought for just 80 yuan (or was it 0.80 yuan?)

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 12:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 12:01am

Was it 80 yuan or 0.80 yuan? It’s a big difference. Arguably, it’s the difference between bribery and innocence.

A coalition of democracy-, integrity- and freedom-loving groups at the University of Hong Kong have, once again, accused the university council – its highest decision-making body – of “abuse of power” and “neglect of rules and regulations”.

Its crime? For dismissing a complaint by student Michael Mo Kwan-tai last month against rival Zhu Ke in a post-graduate representative’s election to the council, for allegedly handing out “electronic” red packets to voters on a WeChat messaging group.

Red packet bribe accusations taint University of Hong Kong student elections

The groups are the HKU Academic Staff Association, Students’ Union and the Alumni Concern Group, the usual suspects that have helped turn HKU into a hotbed of political agitation.

“[S]ome members claimed that the RMB 80 involved were simply ‘immaterial’ and inadequate to serve as an inducement for voters,” they wrote in a statement. “We believe that the judgment and administering of the Council were unreasonable and inappropriate. Fairness and honesty are core values of Hong Kong ... As a fortress defending such core values, the University should take up the duty in nurturing students who uphold justice in the pursuit of truth with integrity. The University should not tolerate any acts of disobeying election principles of fairness and honesty.”

High-sounding words, except for an election and its aftermath that were mired by insinuations about the corruption of mainlanders and their bad influence. Mo was, of course, the local post-graduate candidate and Zhu was from the mainland. Call it McCarthyism, pan-democratic-HKU style, that goes after even its students, albeit from the mainland.

HKU Council defends recent decision to dismiss vote-buying allegations

In reply, the council referred “to the insignificant value [about RMB 0.80] offered through the ‘Red Packet’ by way of justification”.

Who knows? Maybe mainland students are so cheap they can be brought for 0.80 yuan. You know, they are Chinese, unlike Hongkongers.

Some 80 fen! Call the Independent Commission Against Corruption, please.

The righteous groups also wrote: “The University must seriously address the concerned complaint in order to ensure that the interest of students and the reputation of our University are not harmed.”

With such people representing HKU academic staff and students, you can be sure the university’s reputation has been, and will continue to be, harmed.

Now I understand why HKU keeps sliding in international university rankings.