The MTR Corporation’s new chairman has quit as council chairman of Lingnan University with immediate effect, a year before his term in office was to end. Announcing his early departure on Tuesday, the government, which appoints the council chairman, said Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen, who took charge at the university in 2014, would like to focus more on his other public service. Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung expressed regret over the 67-year-old’s resignation, but said he respected the decision. “Under Mr Auyeung’s excellent leadership, Lingnan University has maintained its fine liberal arts tradition in providing quality whole-person education, and has made every effort to nurture talents with both strong capabilities and humanistic values,” Yeung said. The government said it would initiate its process to identify and appoint a successor as soon as practicable. In the interim, the deputy chairman of the university, Simon Ip, has been made acting chairman. “I treasured my years there and thank the council members and management for their support,” Auyeung told the Post . “I look forward to reading more success stories from the students and teaching staff.” Auyeung, who became MTR Corp chairman in July in the early days of the civil unrest sweeping the city, had declared himself apolitical, and steered clear of politics. However, from time to time he was caught in the crossfire of several high-profile controversies. In late July, he said he sent a letter to Yeung urging him to find out whether the controversial pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a council member, had any role in the infamous Yuen Long attacks on the night of July 21. Poon Ka-kit, spokesman for the university concern group Lingsulate, called Auyeung’s decision to step down irresponsible. “The decision is strange, which comes a year before his term expires,” he said. “We are concerned if anyone will follow up on the Junius Ho issues with Education Bureau after he leaves.” Ho was thrust into the spotlight when he publicly defended the men who indiscriminately attacked civilians in Yuen Long that night, deemed by many as the turning point for the escalating anti-government protests. Also in July, Auyeung urged authorities to respond to demands to set up an independent inquiry into police clashes with the protesters, after his company was drawn into the unrest after non-cooperative movements targeted the train operator. As the new chairman of the MTR Corp, Auyeung also faced accusations the rail giant had been bowing to Beijing pressure, by taking a tougher stand on the protesters. It resulted in the beleaguered rail operator being the major target of increasingly violent action by protesters in recent weeks. Before last Friday, almost 90 per cent of its 94 stations had been vandalised, entrances to stations were set on fire on consecutive weekends, and the entire network ground to a halt on Saturday. However, Auyeung insisted he had not given any political considerations to any decision-making, and said he left the day-to-day management of the railway to the corporation’s top executives.