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Leung Chun-ying

CY Leung’s son won’t join new research centre amid HK$400m donation row

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2015, 11:49am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2015, 3:33pm

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s son will not join a research centre to be established in Hong Kong by one of the world’s top medical universities after a property tycoon’s HK$400 million donation to the institute raised concerns over a conflict of interests.

The record donation to Sweden’s Karolinska Institute (KI), for it to set up its first overseas research base in the city, was made by Lau Ming-wai, the chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings, earlier this month.

But a report in Next Magazine yesterday accused Leung of fostering the cooperation between Lau and KI, and suggested the chief executive might have a conflict of interest, after his eldest son Chuen-yan applied to be a post doctoral fellow in 2013 and officially joined the school this year.

But a KI spokesman told the South China Morning Post that Chuen-yan would not take up any role at the Hong Kong centre.

“Chuen-yan is very talented, but scientifically he is still on a too junior level. His research profile does not at this time fit the profile of the research node that will be established in Hong Kong,” the spokesman said.

Professor Kenneth Chien, who heads the lab which Chuen-yan works at in Stockholm, however would be involved in establishing the Hong Kong centre as he had already established a research group in collaboration with Chinese universities, the spokesman added.

The chief executive’s office said yesterday that the accusation of a conflict of interest was “completely unfounded” and that Lau’s cooperation with the institute was of his own accord. It added that Leung had made the relevant declarations about his son’s studies.

READ MORE: HKU academics demand to know if CY Leung blocked honorary degrees

Lau had said he decided to make the donation after a dinner last year with Leung and KI vice-president Professor Anders Hamsten, adding that Leung had told him about his son’s research at the school. Leung also visited KI during his duty visit to Europe last May.

The chief executive might have paved the way for his son by prompting the creation of the new research centre in Hong Kong, the Next Magazine article suggested.

KI said the institute knew Chuen-yan’s identity back in 2010 – although the chief executive didn’t bring that up at any time – and stressed that his admission was “solely on the basis of his academic qualifications”.

KI also said Leung Chun-ying did not suggest the institute set up a research centre in Hong Kong during his visit to Europe last year.