Council chairman says politicians are peddling political 'poison' to students

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) Council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung blasted the "masterminds" behind a student protest after

Tuesday's council meeting, by specifically naming senior members of the Civic Party and their assistants.

This was the first time he faced the media after students besieged him at the meeting venue three days ago.

Also at the press conference was HKU's President and Vice-Chancellor Peter Mathieson. He stressed that this time the students' behavior was "mob rule" and he would not rule out punishments for the students in accordance with university discipline.

Mathieson said he was deeply concerned about the safety of all people on the campus that night as the students appeared "physically dangerous". He urged students to engage in rational discussions with the university when expressing their views.

Li said that the students were "idealistic" and had been manipulated. "Sadly, this very small minority of students are rather like people who've been poisoned by drugs," he said. "Once you've taken drugs, your behavior can become very irrational."

Thus, he voiced his apology to Hong Kong society for the behavior of the radical students. The majority of HKU students were well-behaved and conscientious, Li stressed. The people behind the protest should be condemned, he said.

He specifically named the Civic Party as the organization behind the student protests. Moreover, he noted that party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee was at the protest, and that Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, one of the student protest organizers, was an intern with party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit.

Similar speculation also arose when radical students stormed a previous HKU Council meeting last July which was discussing the appointment of previous Civic Party member and then pro-vice-chancellor candidate Johannes Chan Man-mun. At that time, the Civic Party heavyweights were also present.

Li also blamed student union president Billy Fung Jing-en, who had voted for the motion to set up a review panel in the council meeting, but later stirred up a more radical protest outside the meeting venue.

He accused Fung of sending a "false message" by phone to protesters outside that the council had declined to set up the panel to review the university governance, while the council actually unanimously agreed to establish one.

Waiting for a regular report on university governance by the University Grants Committee, which will be released in two months, Li said the council will invite internationally renowned scholars outside the university to conduct the review.

Mathieson was also aware of the "political influences" from local political parties and admitted that Hong Kong is a very politicized place. However, he vowed he would not be dictated to by any of these voices and would make decisions in the best interests of the university.

Police confirmed on Wednesday that the events of Tuesday night were under investigation for possible criminal damage. Mathieson said the university would cooperate fully with the investigation.

Civic Party heavyweights denied claims they were behind the protests. Eu accused Li of "deviating from the truth" while Leong said it is impossible to control someone's mind that easily.

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 Arthur Li blasts

Arthur Li Kwok-cheung (right), HKU Council chairman and Peter Mathieson, HKU president and vice-chancellor meet the media in Central on Thursday. Roy Liu / China Daily

(HK Edition 01/29/2016 page7)