Reign of King Arthur may not yet be over

Despite the trend of Chief Executive Carrie Lam getting rid of hardline appointees of the previous leader, Arthur Li could remain as chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 10:16pm

Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, the controversial chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council, will finish his term at the end of the year. Speculation has begun about whether he will be reappointed.

The decision rests with the chancellor of the prestigious school, who happens to be Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. There are already media reports that he will stay on, as the hard-charging Li is seen as a pivot against radical students and dissident scholars alike at the university.

That may be so, but it would be against the thinking of Lam so far. She has purged her administration of the most hardline legacy appointees of her unpopular predecessor, Leung Chun-ying.

Leung loyalist Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun was recently made to quit as head of the Science Park, after Lam earmarked a big chunk of HK$50 billion in science and technology funding for the park.

Lam also downgraded the Central Policy Unit, often described as the government’s think tank, such as not retaining Shiu Sin-por, its former hardline director closely allied with Beijing, as well as Sophia Kao Ching-chi. A close Leung aide, Kao had helped to vet appointments to advisory and statutory bodies, a completely new function for her post at the policy unit.

Hong Kong independence advocates have the ‘mentality of losers’

Lam has also replaced Larry Kwok Lam-kwong, the lacklustre head of the Independent Police Complaints Council, with the widely respected Anthony Francis Neoh SC, a former chairman of the Securities and Futures Commission.

Meanwhile, Lam has recruited moderates with pan-democratic backgrounds such as Law Chi-kwong as the secretary for labour and welfare and Ronny Tong Ka-wah to the Executive Council.

So, if this trend is any indication, Li would likely have to go.

Known as King Arthur for his imperious tempers, it was no secret that he was appointed by Leung as a counterweight to rising radicalism at HKU, which has traditionally been a hotbed of student activism.

He helped sway the council against appointing democracy activist and former law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun as pro-vice-chancellor. He had criticised local students for seeking Hong Kong independence because they lacked talent and ability to compete with their mainland counterparts and wrote “stupidity has no cure” in an exchange with the head of HKU’s Academic Staff Association.

The powers that be may yet decide Li is needed to keep a lid on student radicalism, even though he was among the most hardline of the Leung allies.