An Executive Council member nicknamed "King Arthur" and even "The Tsar" for his leadership style has joined the governing body of the University of Hong Kong. The government's appointment of Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung is widely seen as a move paving his way to becoming chairman of the HKU council. The body has been at the centre of a controversy over alleged political pressure from pro-Beijing papers over the appointment of a new pro-vice chancellor. "Professor Li has been dedicated to public service and has rich experience in the education sector," a spokesman for the Education Bureau said yesterday. Council chairman Dr Leong Che-hung, who steps down in November, said he had not heard that Li would succeed him. Li said he was replacing Lester Huang, who had resigned from the council, and it was only a "rumour" that his appointment was a step to becoming chairman. "It's all about what you will have achieved," he said, when asked whether he would be interested in the position after he finished his three-year term. Li was education minister from 2002-2007 after serving as president of Chinese University. Ip Kin-yuen, the lawmaker representing the education sector, said: "Li is very controversial in the higher education sector. When he was minister he was seen as a threat to universities' autonomy." Li tried to push through a merger between the Chinese University and the University of Science and Technology when he was minister, claiming "the power [was] in [his] hands". The plan failed after resistance from students and academics. Last year, he came under fire in the days leading up to the Occupy movement, when he said of students staging a class boycott: "Who cares?" He also suggested students quit university to show their commitment to democracy. Those comments alarmed Billy Fung Jing-en, president of the HKU Student Union, who said: "We wonder if he would listen to students ... I guess this is not something a person who loves education would say." The council will discuss a report on Wednesday on whether Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who teaches law at HKU, should face a disciplinary hearing for accepting donations from unknown sources. It will then decide whether former law dean Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, who handled a sum passed on by Tai, should be appointed as pro-vice chancellor. Pro-Beijing newspapers have slammed Chan, a pro-democracy scholar, for "meddling in politics" and said he was unfit for the post.