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Universities in Hong Kong

Arthur Li to lead University of Hong Kong’s governing council for another three years

  • After student protests in first term that brought out Li’s combative style, mixed feelings greet his reappointment
PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2018, 4:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2018, 11:07pm

The chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council will lead the body for another three years after a first term shaken by fierce protests and criticism from both students and staff.

The government gazette on Friday said controversial government adviser Arthur Li Kwok-cheung had been reappointed along with a new council member, Jason Chiu Tsz-kiu, founder and CEO of mobile technology and e-commerce firm Cherrypicks.

Other reappointments included Vivien Chan, a former chairwoman of the Estate Agents Authority, and Thomas Brian Stevenson, ex-chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The changes will take effect on January 1.

Li, 73, is also a member of the city’s Executive Council, a body of policy advisers to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. He was first promoted to council chairman in 2015 by former Hong Kong chief executive, Leung Chun-ying.

The council under Li last year rejected a recommendation to strip the chief executive of the power to appoint its members.

Li, often dubbed “King Arthur” or “The Tsar” for his combative style of governance in previous positions of public office, has been outspoken about young people.

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Angry students stormed a council meeting in July 2015 in protest at the process for filling a key managerial post at the university for which pro-democracy scholar Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun was in the running. Li reacted by calling their actions akin to a “Hong Kong Cultural Revolution”.

Li’s reappointment on Friday drew mixed feelings from council members and staff.

Academic Staff Association chairman William Cheung Sing-wai said he was worried for the university’s future.

“What he has done for the university has satisfied authorities,” Cheung said. “Li can be very heavy handed ... There has been a chilling effect since he came in.”

Cheung was concerned that law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who is standing trial on public nuisance charges for his role in Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy democracy movement, might face an internal investigation and lose his tenure if found guilty.

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He added: “Our chance to reform the university’s retirement policy by pushing the threshold from age 60 to 65 will be even slimmer.”

Davin Kenneth Wong, president of the student union, said the body was saddened by Li’s reappointment.

“We are disappointed that students were not engaged or shown sufficient respect during the process, especially after what happened in the past,” Wong said.

The union would discuss follow-up action, he added.

But hardliners on the council have backed Li and praised him as resolute in the face of unruly student protests and other opponents within the body.

Former council member Leonie Ki Man-fung said in a previous interview with the Post that Li would stand firm against any criticism and “argue back”.

A council member with a background in business who wished to remain anonymous said some on the council were “loving” Li’s qualities.

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HKU president Professor Zhang Xiang welcomed the reappointment of Li on Friday.

“Li has provided great leadership in university governance,” he said. “His continuity as the council chairman will be invaluable to the university in realising its vision in the coming years.”

Li said he was most happy and honoured to accept the reappointment, and looked forward to continuing his work with the whole university community.

Meanwhile, new council chairmen for two other publicly funded universities were also announced on Friday. Dr Lam Tai-fai and Dr Clement Chen Cheng-jen will chair the councils of Polytechnic University and Baptist University respectively.

Lam, 59, is also chairman of the Hong Kong Sports Institute and a former lawmaker representing the manufacturing industry. Chen is an honorary chairman of the Textile Council of Hong Kong and used to lead the city’s Productivity Council and Vocational Training Council.

Additional reporting by Alvin Lum