HKU council controversy

University of Hong Kong obtains court injunction to prevent further council meeting leaks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 October, 2015, 3:07am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 4:42pm

The University of Hong Kong has obtained what one legal expert called an "all-encompassing" court order to ban media reports detailing information leaked from its governing council.

It secured the injunction yesterday, hours after Commercial Radio aired the second of two audio clips in three days that apparently revealed a pair of council members criticising liberal scholar Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun behind closed doors over his bid for a managerial post.

The radio station, which was named in the order alongside "persons unknown", said it had removed the clips from its website but pledged to "uphold freedom of speech and of the press and the public's right to know, and to protect any source".

Critics feared the injunction "threatened" media freedom in the light of public interest and concerns about possible government interference in the operations of the city's top university.

In a statement last night, HKU said the order covered Commercial Radio and "persons unknown" who had "appropriated, obtained or … intend to offer" confidential information about the council's meetings.

These parties must not use, publish, communicate or disclose to any other person materials including any audio clips, agenda, papers and minutes of the council. They were also barred from publishing any information that might identify any HKU members, including council members, staff and students.

The matter would return to court on November 6.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a lawyer and HKU lecturer, described the order as "all-encompassing".

"It is aimed at forbidding any more disclosure of leaked files and confidential information that will identify a particular council member," he said. "But if there is litigation, the court should take into account the public interest in HKU issues."

To Yiu-ming, a journalism professor at Baptist University, called HKU's application for the injunction "stupid and unwise".

"This will threaten freedom of the press," To said. "Recently, the press has effectively monitored the HKU council, which is a public trustee to run the university."

HKU turned to the courts as revelations surrounding Chan's failed job application for pro-vice-chancellorship continued to grip the institution.

READ MORE: Four members appointed to HKU council – but no word yet on crowning of ‘Tsar’ Arthur Li as chairman

The two recordings involved HKU council member Leonie Ki Man-fung and former education chief Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, both aired on Commercial Radio, were of the same September 29 meeting.

The recordings were made during a council meeting at which a search committee's recommendation to appoint Chan was voted down. Critics see political motives for that decision.

Ki was among four people appointed by Leung to the council on Friday, including Sino Group executive director Daryl Ng Win-kong, actuary Patrick Poon Sun-cheong and accountant Edward Chow Kwong-fai - deputy to the Zhejiang chapter of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.