The University of Hong Kong's governing council yesterday asked a student representative to leave its meeting after he refused to sign an agreement to ensure other council members' safety.
This came as the monthly council meeting took place amid high security and secrecy, following the siege of a gathering last month by angry students protesting about governance issues - largely the appointment of Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as council chairman despite strong public and union opposition.
But a council member criticised the legitimacy of his colleagues' decision, describing it as "coercive and high-handed".
Many have accused outgoing student union president Billy Fung Jing-en, whose term on the council ends in May, of helping students organise the siege by texting them about what was happening in the meeting.
A university spokesman said Fung declined during yesterday's meeting to promise the council not to take "any actions which might directly or indirectly" harm the safety of any council members and university staff. The decision to ask Fung to leave was put to vote and agreed by a majority of members.
Council member Eric Cheung Tat-ming said there were no university regulations which allowed the council to ban a member from a meeting on a hypothetical safety concern, as no student protester went to yesterday's talks.
"It's very unfortunate," Cheung said. "I think those in power need to be more tolerant."
The university's newly elected student union president, Althea Suen, said the council should not use punishment and threats against student representatives.