SCMP Tuesday, September 5, 2000
University pair's fate might be in Tung's hands
Tung Chee-hwa could hold the key to the fate of embattled Hong Kong University head Professor Cheng Yiu-chung.
Professor Cheng has been under pressure to resign since an independent inquiry into the Robert Chung Ting-yiu controversy found that the vice-chancellor had tried to inhibit academic freedom.
The university's governing council meets tomorrow to decide whether to accept the inquiry's report. It has the right to set up a staff committee to see whether there is good cause to sack Professor Cheng or pro-vice-chancellor Professor Wong Siu-lun, who was also criticised in the report.
The University of Hong Kong Ordinance says any officer of the university whose appointment is terminated can appeal to the chancellor - Mr Tung.
The ordinance defines "good cause" as "inability to perform efficiently the duties of the office, neglect of duty, or such misconduct, whether in an official or a private capacity, as renders the holder unfit to continue in office".
The independent inquiry report said Professor Cheng and Professor Wong had made "covert attempts" to stop Dr Chung, a university pollster, from carrying out surveys on Mr Tung's popularity and the Government's credibility. It said the attempts had been triggered by a meeting between Professor Cheng and Mr Tung's closest aide, Andrew Lo Cheung-on, and described Mr Lo as a "poor and untruthful witness". Mr Tung rejected the claim and said Mr Lo was an "honest and reliable man".
Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming warned his party would move a no-confidence motion in the new legislature if Mr Tung were to allow an appeal by either Professor Cheng or Professor Wong, if the council decided to sack the two.
"If Mr Tung were to allow an appeal by Professor Cheng should the council decide to fire him, that would amount to a big scandal. The public perception will be that justice is not seen to be done," Mr Lee said. "Mr Tung has already sought to defend Mr Lo. He might well make use of his capacity as the university's chancellor to allow an appeal should the council decide to sack them."
Mr Lee said there would be no problem with such an appeal mechanism had the Chief Executive been directly elected. A review by the new legislature of the mechanism was warranted.
Professor Cheng, who has been vice-chancellor since March 1996, is on a six-year contract. Professor Wong, director of Asian studies, was appointed a pro-vice-chancellor on April 1, 1998, for a three-year term.