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University of Hong Kong (HKU) Council Chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung does not beat around the bush. So when he chaired a press conference on Thursday with Vice-Chancellor Peter Mathieson,

two days after they were harassed by radical students after the first council meeting Li chaired since assuming his new position, he was quick to point out the crux of the problem.

He rightly referred directly to those he described as having "poisoned" the students. He observed that the students were misled and therefore manipulated by political forces. This, he stressed, was real interference in university affairs, exactly what the opposition camp has claimed the establishment has been doing.

Li belongs to a group of people that cannot easily be found in today's society - those with a very strong backbone. He refused to succumb to what Mathieson described as "mob rule". Asked why he did not talk to the students after the council meeting, Li said he was always willing to meet them, but such meetings have to be arranged through proper channels - the vice-chancellor who attends to daily administration of the university - and not under threats.

He explained that he decided to take up the position of HKU council chairman in spite of a warning from people around him that it was a thankless and unrewarding job. Li said he was determined because he was fed up with all the unreasonable and irrational accusations lodged against him. Li said he decided to "stand up for decency". "Enough is enough," he stressed in an unyielding tone. In the current environment in which many people are afraid to speak up against those who confound right and wrong, we need such a resolute person at the helm of our leading university to provide a beacon of light for "poisoned" students.

So who poisoned the students? While those opposition lawmakers who have turned the legislative chamber into a circus are no doubt the obvious culprits, there are others that are not so apparent, but probably even more poisonous. One such group is the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (HKPTU), whose president, Ip Kin-yuen, happens to be the convener of the HKU Alumni Concern Group. This is one of the most active bodies advocating the appointment of Johannes Chan Man-mun as HKU's pro-vice-chancellor and rejecting Li's appointment. Certainly not all teachers affiliated to the union identify themselves with the opposition. But quite a number of them do incessantly instill anti-establishment ideas in their students' minds in class. The intoxication process goes all the way to the university stage.

In addition to the opposition politicians and the HKPTU, some of the local media are doing the same thing. The questions posed by some reporters to Li at the press conference were obviously provocative and hostile. One can imagine what kind of biased news stories they would write. They represent the same media that glorified the illegal occupation movement in 2014 and demonized the police.

Something serious needs to be done to detoxify our young generation.

(HK Edition 01/29/2016 page10)