The University of Hong Kong's governing council has rejected the selection committee’s recommendation for the post of pro-vice-chancellor.
HKU's search committee had submitted pro-democracy scholar Professor Johannes Chan’s name many months ago, and he was the sole candidate. The council's chairman Leong Che-hung did not mention Chan's name but simply stated the candidate has been rejected.
Speaking after the meeting, council chairman Leong Che-hung said the decision, in the "long-term and best interests of the University of Hong Kong", was reached after a thorough and rational debate. He said it would not be in the best interests of the university, or the candidate’s privacy, to discuss the confidential deliberations of the council.
Leong said the council had requested the university vice-chancellor immediately chair a new search committee for the post.
The university’s vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson described the meeting’s deliberations as "vigorous", and said all members of the council would abide by the decision. Mathieson said he would re-start the search for a new candidate as soon as possible, and he was keen to have his senior team finalised.
Later the president of the HKU Student Union, Billy Fung - who was the student representative on the council - broke its confidentiality rule, and named members who had criticised Professor Chan in the meeting.
He said the former Education Secretary, Arthur Li, and former president of Lingnan University, Edward Chen, had said Johannes Chan wasn’t qualified for the job as he does not have a doctoral degree.
The delay by the council had raised allegations that it was Chan's support for pro-democracy groups that was hindering the choice. Allegations were raised that the Chief Executive CY Leung was interfering in the university’s affairs.
On September 1, an extraordinary general meeting of the HKU Convocation, which includes all university alumni, voted overwhelmingly in support of a non-binding motion urging the council to confirm Chan.
Earlier on Tuesday, the convenor of the University of Hong Kong Alumni Concern Group, Ip Kin-yuen, said they will consider filing a judicial review if the university doesn’t appoint Chan.
Dozens of people had also staged a protest outside the meeting venue, urging the council to vote against the appointment of Chan. Members from the Voice of Loving Hong Kong and the Defend Hong Kong Campaign criticised Chan, describing him as "incompetent".
Speaking after the decision was made, Ip said it was a “very, very bad result”. He said not only had the council turned down the recommendations of the university search committee, it had also chosen not to give any explanation. Ip said he was “very angry, very sad” that their alma mater is in the hands of such “irresponsible people”.