Chief Executive Carrie Lam has refused to be drawn into a row sparked by reports that a Communist Party member will be appointed a vice president of Hong Kong University, saying she won't interfere in the institution's affairs.
Ahead of the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lam – who is the chancellor of all publicly funded universities in the SAR – also said she would "respect the institutional autonomy of Hong Kong universities".
"I’m sure that each university will recruit and appoint the best academia to fulfil that mission, and in the appointment I believe the university authority will look at the attributes of meritocracy, that is the academic achievements of the candidates, the competency of the candidates."
She went on to say that neither she nor the education secretary plays a role in the recruitment process for posts at the city's universities.
Lam's comments come amid reports that mainland scholar Max Shen has been chosen for the post of vice president for research at HKU.
Local media say he had been listed as a member of the Communist Party committee at Tsinghua University, until this information was removed recently from the university's website.
Another mainland professor, Gong Peng who is also from Tsinghua University, is tipped to fill HKU's post of vice president for academic development.
The university has refused to comment, only saying that parts of the media reports are inconsistent with the facts.