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HKU council controversy

Shouting match takes place as 250 University of Hong Kong students stage rally to support class boycott

Campaign for HKU council reform meets resistance in shape of counter rally by pro-establishment supporters

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 3:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 7:58pm

About 250 University of Hong Kong students staged a rally at the school’s Pok Fu Lam campus on Wednesday in support of a week-long class boycott to demand an overhaul of the institution’s governing council.

The boycott will last until at least January 26, when the council is scheduled to meet and discuss university affairs.

The campaign came after chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s controversial appointment of former education minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as the council’s new chairman at the end of last year.

READ MORE: HKU students to boycott classes until university governing council’s structure is reviewed

The appointment followed the council’s decision in September to reject the promotion of pro-democracy law professor Johannes Chan Man-mun to a key managerial post.

Many students, staff members and people from the society viewed these events as the result of political pressure.

A source close to the information said the council had put into the meeting agenda boycotting students’ demands that the council form a committee to review whether the chief executive should be the university’s chancellor by default, whether he should continue to hold the power to appoint council members and whether the number of members from inside the university should be increased to account for at least half of the council.

Priscilla Chan, 21, a law school student, said she had been concerned about the university’s academic freedom since the rejection of the law professor’s appointment. She said she would boycott some classes but would attend ones essential to her grades.

“It’s really tragic that students are forced to use class boycott to express their demands,” said Chan.

Toby Ng Wing-chun, 19 and studying education and social sciences, said he would boycott all classes until the next council meeting.“We’ve used many mild ways to express our demands such as rallies and referendums, but the system still has not been improved,” said Ng.

But Lida Liao Jing-wen, 20, a science student, said although she supported students’ cause, she believed they should protest after classes, or else they would give others an excuse to criticise them.

Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun said he would do his best to assist students. But he said people should consider whether it was “sustainable” to express opinions via class boycott.

READ MORE: Class boycott? Just get on with studying

Organisers called for more staff members to join the boycott. They said they would not count how many students joined the campaign. There are almost 28,000 at the university in total.

During the rally, about 10 middle-aged pro-establishment supporters staged a brief anti-boycott rally, shouting at the students that they should be expelled.

Some students shouted back, asking them to “shut up” and ridiculing them as being paid to protest.