Professor Rosie Young wins place on University of Hong Kong committee as beaten rival bemoans lack of student voice in search for new chairman
Rosie Young only elected member of body tasked with advising Chief Executive Carrie Lam on candidates for senior position at university
Renowned medical professor Rosie Young Tse-tse has become the only elected member of an advisory committee set up to find the next top governor of the University of Hong Kong, beating the university’s student leader.
Young, 87, a member of HKU’s governing council, won 14 votes from 17 council members on Thursday, comfortably beating her only rival, president of the university’s students union, Davin Kenneth Wong.
Other than Young, the advisory committee has three ex officio members, including pro-chancellor David Li Kwok-po, vice chancellor Zhang Xiang, and treasurer Margaret Leung Ko May-yee.
The committee is tasked with advising the city’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Cheng Yuet-ngor, on potential candidates for council chairman. Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, 73, the present chairman, will end his three-year term on December 31.
Formed last year, the committee was one of the measures aimed at improving the university’s governance, while easing public concern over the erosion of academic freedom at the university. Concern that grew out of a series of clashes between Li and student leaders.
Nicknamed “King Arthur”, or even “The Tsar”, for his autocratic leadership style, Li was controversially made council chairman at the end of 2015 by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who Li had nominated for the position at the 2012 election.
Before Li was parachuted into the council as a member in March 2015, he drew criticism for mocking students taking part in a civil disobedience movement in 2014.
Months before Li was promoted to the top post, angry students stormed a council meeting in July 2015, after it again voted to delay discussion on promoting pro-democracy scholar Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun to a key managerial post.
Li described the students’ actions as akin to “Hong Kong’s Cultural Revolution”, and his comments again triggered protests from students.
Chan’s candidacy was ultimately defeated, and the saga triggered wider outcries on defending academic freedom from alumni groups, news media, and the public.
In mid-2016, an independent task force comprising two international scholars and one former High Court judge was set up to review the university’s governing structure.
But, half of the 12 suggestions made by the task force were rejected by another six-member review group, including the suggestion that the university’s ordinance be amended to abolish the chief executive’s right to be the chancellor by default, and to appoint the council chairman.
Instead, the advisory committee was formed, and the final decision will still be made by the city’s leader.
Wong congratulated Young on her victory, but said he found the advisory committee’s composition “disappointing”.
“The committee is full of the university’s current and former senior management, and doesn’t have any student or staff representative,” Wong said.
“The council chairman should be a candidate accepted by both the students and the staff. Therefore we hope the advisory committee will hold public consultations on campus, and show that they take students’ opinions into account.”