Former education minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung has been appointed the new chairman of the University of Hong Kong's governing council, despite strong opposition from the student union, some staff and alumni groups. Li, who has been called "King Arthur" by critics who find him abrasive and high-handed, will start a three-year term from January 1.
The appointment by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was announced in the Government Gazette, the government's official publication, last night, and was met with fresh condemnation.
HKU student union president Billy Fung Jing-en expressed anger and disappointment, and vowed to be uncooperative with the council as a member himself, but stressed he had no plan to organise a class boycott.
"At this moment of disadvantage, what we need is a wise step, not a quick step," he wrote on Facebook. "The students' union and I will do the appropriate thing at the appropriate time."
Another council member, philosophy professor Timothy O'Leary, said Li's appointment "underlines the deficiencies of the current system of university governance across Hong Kong. Arthur Li would be a very poor choice as chairman". He added it was now more important than ever to protect the university's core values, in particular its institutional autonomy and academic freedom.
The HKU Alumni Concern Group and the school's Academic Staff Association both condemned the appointment, saying that it clearly did not have HKU's best interests in mind.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union also expressed anger and regret over Leung's decision, and demanded he withdraw the appointment.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim welcomed the appointment, saying Li is a committed leader who seeks to maximise the welfare of the organisations he serves.