Pro-establishment figures are likely to vote against the appointment of Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun to a key University of Hong Kong job, a camp insider says. After twice deferring discussion, HKU's governing council is expected tonight to debate the vacancy of pro-vice-chancellor, a post for which Chan, a former law dean, was recommended by a search committee months ago. Critics say the delays erode institutional autonomy and punish Chan for his support of democracy and close ties to colleague Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a co-founder of the Occupy Central movement. Beijing-loyalist media have heaped criticism on the pair. One pro-establishment figure said he had spoken to officials in Beijing's liaison office asking them to stay out of the matter. "But the office does not want to see someone associated with Occupy take the helm," he said on condition of anonymity. The office was likely to have lobbied HKU council members who were also lawmakers or deputies to the National People's Congress or the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, he added. Of the 21 councillors, seven come from those backgrounds. Abraham Razack declined to comment on HKU matters when the South China Morning Post contacted him, while Leonie Ki Man-fung, Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, Peter Wong King-keung and Martin Liao Cheung-kong did not return calls or reply to emails. The remaining two are Margaret Leung Ko May-yee and Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung. In its last two meetings, the council voted, by secret ballot, 12-6 and 12-8, to postpone deliberations on the pro-vice-chancellorship. Those in favour of a deferral said they wanted to first fill the role of provost, which would supervise the position. The voting patterns caused outrage among students and alumni. At a meeting this month of HKU's Convocation - a statutory body comprising all graduates and lecturers - 80 per cent of the 9,298 votes cast supported pressing the council to confirm the appointment. The voting results will be discussed tonight. Also on the agenda tonight are the proposed appointments of two new members, one to fill an earlier vacancy and another to replace Christopher Cheng Wai-chee, whose term has expired. Council member Man Cheuk-fei said he would respect the decision of the search committee and vote for Chan. He also believed council members close to Beijing had been lobbied to vote against the scholar. While he declined to reveal how he voted previously, Man said: "The past voting results may not be indicative. Last time it was about [whether to delay the appointment], but this time it's about the candidate. The considerations are different." Fellow member Dr Cheung Kie-chung said a veto of a committee's recommendation would be "unprecedented" at HKU. "The committee was set up by the council and it has worked according to procedures."