Published: 17:51, June 11, 2024
Investigation and study group to look into HKU governance
By Wang Zhan
In this file photo dated Oct 30, 2023, visitors walk past a University of Hong Kong building, at the HKU Campus in Hong Kong. (PHOTO / AP)

HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Tuesday established an investigation and study group on the recent internal operational affairs of the University of Hong Kong.

The move follows recent wide media coverage and discussions on the HKU's internal operational affairs, which led the Chief Executive, John Lee Ka-chiu, to task the Education Bureau with learning about the matter and reporting to him.

The group was established to clarify facts and understand issues involving all parties, facilitate the internal coordination and mutual cooperation, as well as proposing recommendations of improvement measures, a spokesman for the special administrative region government said in a statement on Tuesday.

The EDB had reached out to different parties but they provided inconsistent information about the issue, a spokesman for the HKSAR government said, stressing that it was necessary to clarify the facts and study how to handle the matter

HKU Vice-Chancellor Zhang Xiang complained recently that he was kept in the dark about the appointments of six vice-presidents made by chairman of the university's governing council Priscilla Wong Pui-sze.

The EDB had reached out to different parties but they provided inconsistent information about the issue, the spokesman said, stressing that it was necessary to clarify the facts and study how to handle the matter.

“The government and residents have high expectations of universities. The government provides funding for their operations every year and has to ensure the proper use of public funds.”

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In this file photo dated Oct 7, 2021, president of the University of Hong Kong Zhang Xiang smiles in an interview with Xinhua, in Hong Kong. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

While providing funding, the University Grants Committee signs an agreement with each funded university, setting out requirements on governance, accountability and resource utilization of the universities to ensure that their operations are in line with the interests of Hong Kong, added the spokesman.

The group – composed of Permanent Secretary for Education Michelle Li Mei-sheung and chairman of the UGC Tim Lui Tim-leung – will commence its work as soon as possible. A support team will be formed by the EDB and the UGC Secretariat.

“We believe that establishing the group will help the HKU raise its governance effectiveness and scale new heights with concerted effort,” the spokesman said.

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Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu answers questions from members of the media during a press conference ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on June 11, 2024. (PHOTO / HKSAR GOVERNMENT)

Talking to the media earlier in the day, the CE stressed that the interests of the HKU should come first.

Saying that he had met with the vice-chancellor and the chairman of the council, he added: “I tried to coordinate their communication and I have reminded them that good communication and cooperation are important ... I have also reminded them of taking the university’s interests as the overriding principle in all their business.”

The HKU does not belong to any single person, neither the president nor anyone in the governing council, but to all Hong Kong people, Lee reiterated, adding that the provision of public money to various universities is over billions of dollars and the public money must be spent with “good value”

Emphasizing that the university needs to seek continuous enhancement, he said: “If HKU has problems with administration, then it should be improved. If there are important vacancies that have been left long vacant, then they have to be filled up. If there are procedures that are unclear, then we need to write out clearer procedures. If there are issues with the finances, then we have to ensure that there will be clear accountability and responsibility.”

The HKU does not belong to any single person, neither the president nor anyone in the governing council, but to all Hong Kong people, Lee reiterated, adding that the provision of public money to various universities is over billions of dollars and the public money must be spent with “good value”.

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"The governance of a university, and also the administration, have to be compatible and to conform to the requirements of the agreement that is signed when this provision of money is given. There is a responsibility for the university to fulfil those obligations," Lee said.