Time to end war of words at HKU and restore reputation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 February, 2016, 12:16am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 February, 2016, 12:15am

Arthur Li Kwok-cheung stirred a great deal controversy before taking office as chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council.

In just a month, he has taken the controversy to the next level, with distrust and wrangling fast replacing hopes for dialogue and conciliation.

Not many would be taken aback by Li’s outspoken and upfront style though, as his nickname “King Arthur” speaks volumes. Li has never been expected to be able to turn the tide, despite the assurance of his predecessor Dr Leong Che-hung that the public should wait and see. It has taken yet another incident to show that this is a tall order.

The press conference he gave was a bit of a farce. The fact that it was held away from HKU shows that Li is shunning students. Also, that he agreed only to have a dialogue with student leaders behind closed doors shows his lack of sincerity to restore calm and confidence.

That is not to say that students are right in what they did but Li’s response was farcical.

While he had no qualms about venting his spleen and pointing his accusing finger at student leaders and the Civic Party, he has made a mockery of himself, appearing to be impulsive and insulting.

Li could have made himself a hero by showing understanding of students’ concerns, not necessarily changing tack or siding with them. After all, the council had made a unanimous decision to launch a review into the university’s governance in two months’ time.

As to whether students are justified in their act, the public should be the judge.

In countering what he sees as an uprising, Li has made himself more unpopular and the bitter exchanges between him and student leaders have also escalated the conflict and further risked the university’s reputation.

This is nothing but a vicious circle.

Communication is a two-way street. It is not helped when either side remains insistent and trust ebbs.

Borromeo Li Ka-kit, Happy Valley