26th April 2013
<CY Leung Interfered in the Termination of a PhD student at City University of Hong Kong’s Studies – Condemned by Academic Circles as Destroying the Foundation of the University>
One simple email from CY Leung “resurrected” a PhD candidate. The studies of a PhD student from China who has been studying at the City University of Hong Kong was terminated in May 2010, because his dissertation was not up to standard, and his study period had come to an end. CY Leung, the Chairman of the Council at that time, wrote an email to the University and then made the University to take a drastically different approach to restore the candidate’s status, at last awarding him the PhD. Academics think that the University’s foundations may have been destroyed by this single event.
The PhD student Wan-bin Wang (editor’s note: a transliteration of his Mandarin Chinese name) from China had been a PhD student in the Department of Manufacturing Engineering and Engineering Management of the City University of Hong Kong since 2004. From the documents acquired by Apple Daily, his dissertation submitted in February 2008 was rejected for amendments by one of the panelists; an amended dissertation was submitted in June 2009, and again amendments were required by the Department. Wang refused to make further amendments, at the same time his study period was over so his study was terminated in May 2010.
Wang lodged several complaints including to University President Way Kuo. The Deputy Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Horace Ip Ho-shing replied to Wang on three separate occasions, stating that the University had reviewed Wang’s case from various perspectives, that the termination of his studies was the final decision, and there were no grounds for any appeal. On 7th September, 2010, Wang sent an email of complaint to CY Leung, the Chairman of the Council at that time, copying Way Kuo. CY Leung replied to Wang the next day, “Thanks for the email. By copy of this reply to the President, I am drawing this to his attention.”
Original Panelist Replaced
The University’s approach underwent a drastic change since CY Leung’s email. The University set up a special group to restore Wang’s study on “compassionate grounds” under the approval of Way Kuo. Wang told Apple Daily that a plea was arranged in May 2011 when no amendment had been made to his dissertation, but the original panelist who has asked him for the amendment was replaced. He was awarded the PhD in November 2011. The Chief Executive’s Office said that these are the internal affairs of the University and refused to comment. The University also refused to respond.
Joseph Lee Heung-wing, Vice-chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Higher Education Staff Associations, stated that universities handle students’ appeals through a standard appeal mechanism; the mechanism would collapse if every student writes to the chairman of the council for appeal, and the chairman asks the university president to “pay attention” to each case. He also stated that if City University approves an un-amended dissertation where amended have been demanded, simply by replacing the panelist, the quality of the academic level will be affected, “the foundation of the University has been severely damaged by this single event”.
Legislator Kenneth Chan Ka-lok of the Civic Party said that under usual circumstances, compassionate grounds refer to humanitarian grounds. Universities have a set of standard procedures and rules, and no “extra rules” should be added on. The Chairman of the council should not intervene in the academic arena, and universities are responsible for guarding the independence of academics.
PhD Student Claims for HK$1.64m (US$210,200)
The PhD student Wan-bin Wang “resurrected” by an email from CY Leung, sued the City University of Hong Kong for a claim of HK$1.64 million (US$210,000) for the delay of his graduation. Hearing of the case was held at the High Court, but was rescheduled to October because Wang failed to have the Deposition of Witness ready.
Wang: CY Leung “has no persistence in justice”
Wang, who has emmigrated to Australia, came back to Hong Kong for the case in which he sued the City University for HK$1.64 million (US$210,000). In an interview, he said given that he did not amend his dissertation the second time but his PhD qualification was approved after the plea, the University’s previous decision to terminate his study under the rationale of “unsatisfactory academic result” was wrong. He requested the University to revoke the related record (of “unsatisfactory academic result”). He also stated that the incident had delayed his graduation and affected his choice of career, hence he demands compensation. Wang said he “feels an immense gratitude” to CY Leung’s email, and that the Council is responsible for monitoring the University so nothing is wrong with CY Leung’s reply. However, when Wang filed an official complaint against the President and the Vice-president of the University, CY Leung dismissed it. Wang thinks that it shows that Leung “has no persistence in justice” and he would unlikely to uphold justice during his tenure as Hong Kong SAR’s Chief Executive in the years to come.