HKU council controversy

University of Hong Kong PhD student criticises appointment delay, but unhappy over chaos

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 July, 2015, 2:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 July, 2015, 8:43pm

Aloysius Wilfred Raj Arokiaraj submitted a resignation letter to the council of the University of Hong Kong on July 3, three days after the body made a controversial decision to delay the appointment of moderate pro-democracy scholar and former law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun to the post of pro-vice-chancellor.

In a letter to the South China Morning Post, Arokiaraj, an Indian PhD student at the university, said he disagreed with “some decisions” the council had made which he felt “fall short of our expected standards for a world class university”.

He is one of the two student representatives on the 23-member council and one of the five members who wrote to the council chairman, asking it to review its decision to defer the appointment.

He is understood to have voted against the deferral.

He attended Tuesday’s council meeting, which descended into chaos when students rushed the meeting venue.

In the letter, he condemned the students and other people involved who “did not treat the chairman with respect”. He said it was the council members’ collective responsibility to stand by and respect the decisions it had made.

He also referred to an incident in which council member Professor Lo Chung-mau collapsed during the chaos. He said no matter what views people held, they should respect those who held different opinions and not lose their mind to anger. He said students, although they held genuine concerns and had the right to ask questions, should choose a different way to express themselves.

Here is Arokiaraj’s letter in full:


It was difficult to foresee what was going to happen in the council meeting of 28th of July 2015. But things were more complicated than I thought it would turn out to be. Some things were totally unreasonable and some criticism, which followed, cannot be tolerated.

I believe the council should have a variety of opinions and everything should be discussed. If we don’t disagree on things then that surely suggests there is a problem and the organisation never grows. I have never been stopped during the council proceeding anytime when I had a suggestion or comment. I can assure everything that is being reported to the media by the council chairman has followed proper protocol.

I strongly condemn anyone who did not treat the chairman with respect. Yes, I disagree with some decisions but it’s our collective responsibility as the council to stand by and respect the decision. One important reason for resigning from the council was that I felt I was responsible for the decision made on 30th of June 2015 and I tendered my resignation from the council on 3rd of July. I have stated my reasons in my open statement. To summarise it, those decisions “fall short of our expected standards for a world class university”.

I would like to describe what I saw and my feelings.

The student union as far as I saw had genuine concerns about how the decisions in the council are made and I believe they have the right to ask questions to the council and its members about the rationale behind the so-called resolutions.

Around 9.25pm after more than four hours of deliberation, dissatisfied with the proceedings, some of the students came into the Senate room. But what followed that was sad. It was not just students, it was so many people – some of them did not even look like students – and there were too many media personnel.

I did not understand what was happening since most of the heated exchanges were in Cantonese. One thing I was sure, it was not praise. Later on some council members confirmed my intuitive understanding. For me any questioning has to be done with respect, people have to consider the place, time and reason. Yes, we disagree but we should respect the age of the people concerned to say the least. I totally disagree with every single one of them who might have voted against the resolution to not consider the paper on the pro-vice-chancellor appointment, but I believe there are ways to express our views.

During all these heated exchanges, there was an untoward incident. One member of the council was on the floor. I don’t know what exactly happened but I deplore all the speculation raised against Professor Lo Chung-mau. I rushed to the place when I heard that someone was injured, but I didn’t know who it was until I saw for myself. It was Professor Lo and it did not look good. Something had happened. There was a lot of chaos around him and most of the confusion was caused by the media. The media personnel were just interested in getting their headlines and were clicking away.

The worst was at level LG2 where there were no students, and I don’t really know who those middle-aged people were along with a legion of cameramen just not allowing him to leave. I have seen the video, which is circulating online. It doesn’t prove anything. He might have been hit earlier and when he tried to move, leading to his collapse. I am not trying to defend Professor Lo; I am just trying to reason. Have we lost our mind to anger? I haven’t been long at HKU or in Hong Kong to know about him personally, but I believe he has contributed to the Hong Kong community and even the world much more than what most of us might have done and could do in our entire life span. Just because he might have different views or we interpret it that way, we cannot start to disrespect him in any way, forgetting about everything he has done for society and the University of Hong Kong.

Being a part of this electronic age and the instant-gratification generation, we want quick results. Yes, my blood boils when I see certain things happen; I speak everything from my heart and that’s one way I vent my anger. Yes I will be held responsible for my views but I stick to my views and principles. If we want to be respected, we should respect people however divergent our view might be. This is not just related to Professor Lo but also to every single council member who might have been targeted by any means. If we can’t stand up for our fellow student or teacher, who will we even stand up for in our lives? It is good to be stubborn with our views and I am. That at least means we have a strong opinion, but it is not right to verbally or physically impose our opinion on someone, or abuse anyone.

It took almost an hour for the Senate room to look orderly and at least find everyone sitting in chairs or standing. In the previous one hour there was heavy competition for a place to stand on the tables in the Senate room. From around 10.30pm to 12 midnight, the council chairman and the president heard how much the students were concerned about the present situation regarding the council’s decision-making process. We the students should be very careful about people who use students or the university to satisfy their personal goals.

I am not trying to absolve or justify the students’ actions. They did take part in some amount of verbal conflict with some council members. Yes, they did try to block the path so that the council members could not leave the room. But what can you expect when the instant-gratification generation is made to wait with no proper reasons. At this point I sincerely apologise to any council member who might have been hurt emotionally or physically. As an ordinary postgraduate student, I feel very sad about what happened on Tuesday.