5th October 2013
Anti-Foreign HKU Staff Continues to Attack New Vice Chancellor
Professor Peter Mathieson, the newly appointed Vice Chancellor of University of Hong Kong is the 15th Vice Chancellor of the university and the first foreigner taking this position in 41 years. His appointment triggered series debates. A few HKU professors have been attacking him even before he’s been appointed, saying Professor Mathieson is not “qualified”, and that appointing a non-Chinese as the university’s Vice Chancellor is an insult to Hong Kong and China. Professor Lo Chung-mau, Head of HKU’s Department of Surgery, calling Mathieson “Ignorant, Incompetent, Heartless”, and this comment was criticised by many.
Professor Mathieson attended three rounds of Q&A sessions with HKU teaching staff, students and alumni, between 9:30am and midday yesterday. Afterwards, he met with The Council of the university for another questioning session. Dr Edward Leong Che-hung, Chairman of The Council, informed the media at 6:30pm that after two years of search the university is now formally appointing Professor Mathieson as the next Vice Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong. Professor Tsui Lap-chee, the Vice Chancellor, only issued a statement to congratulate Professor Mathieson on his appointment and expressed his wishes that Mathieson will lead the university to continue striving and reach its next peak. Tsui, who is set to leave his position in February next year, said in the statement that he will begin the transfer process as soon as possible.
Dr Edward Leong announced yesterday that The Council of HKU has confirmed Matheison’s appointment. Professor Lo Chung-mau sent text messages to the media yesterday saying that “his conscience” tells him that he should express three major concerns on Matheison’s appointment, and called Matheison “ignorant” for his lack of experience and knowledge of Hong Kong and China; said that Matheison is “incompetent” for not knowing Chinese languages so he cannot communicate with the people in Hong Kong and China; and as “he does not aim to broaden HKU’s horizon but for his own interest” Matheison is “heartless”. Lo also said that, “some say that ignorant means one carries no baggage and incompetent means no responsibility, this is an insult to HKU, Hong Kong and China.” Lo also said that, “the appointment has been confirmed, and I am upset and disappointed. I worry for my university, and have prepared for the worst. Now that the decision has been made, I have no fear of offending others.”
Professor Chan Yuen-ying, Director of HKU’s Journalism and Media Centre, who wrote an article lashing on Matheison two days ago, also attended the teaching staff Q&A session with Matheison. She said that Matheison’s performance was “extremely ordinary”. She said that him believing the unstable factors triggered by the handover in Hong Kong are gone is completely wrong, and condemned Matheison for “misinterpreting Hong Kong affairs”. Chan said she has “no hope (in Matheison) hence was not disappointed”.
Professor Cheng Kai-ming from the Faculty of Education also criticised Matheison for “lacking vision”, “he has no dreams! It’s just like those government officials who claimed to ‘do their jobs’. He is far from being capable of being HKU’s Vice Chancellor.” Cheng worries that under Matheison’s leadership, HKU will not only stop from advancing but falls back. Cheng also thinks that not speaking Chinese languages and not familiar with Asia are definitely set backs, “it all depends on if he knows how to learn. Good leaders can get it right quickly, but the bad ones will fall quickly which is what I worry would happen.”
Dr Edward Leong met with the press together with Matheison, and emphasised that Matheison is the most suitable candidate for the role as he fulfills the five requirements: academic achievements, leadership, honesty, global vision and management skills. Leong did not comment, however, if Matheison has sufficient political sensitivity. Matheison, on the other hand, said that he is willing to accept the teaching staff’s criticisms and improve, and is prepared to learn Hong Kong culture and Cantonese. As for being accuse of lacking experience in managing a world class university, Matheison responded that Bristol University ranks higher than HKU in some areas, and he used to teach and do research at Cambridge University. HKU’s medical school issued a statement saying that it will help Matheison to gain in depth understanding of the current situation of Asia’s higher education and medical technology research.
HKU’s announcement of Matheison’s appointment was delayed for one hour. Members of The Council said that some criticised at the session that Matheison has less than expected knowledge of Hong Kong and China culture. According to source, there were three candidates proposed by the selection committee: one of them is over 60 years old, and another one with too little academic achievements, hence Matheison was recommended. Out of the 11 committee members, only one voted against Matheison’s appointment, which is likely to be Lo Chung-mau.
Professor Gary Biddle, one of the committee members, said that Matheison earned his PhD from Cambridge University and have made research achievements, “without any political connections means that there is no hindrance and external interference, allowing him to make any decision freely.” Tan Yat-long, Chairman of HKU Student Union and a committee member, said that one must not say that Matheison is not capable of becoming HKU’s Vice Chancellor simply because he does not have in depth knowledge about China, “I think he is the best candidate”.
Commenting on some HKU professors’ attacks on Metheison because he does not speaking Chinese languages, Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching thinks that such anti-foreign mentality is inappropriate, “passion is the most important thing in education, as a Vice Chancellor, the most important quality is to possess international values and humanitarian spirit.” Anson Chan Fang On-sang, former senior government official and an alumnus, said that the Vice Chancellor should be appointed based on his ability not based on his race.
Professor Chan Yuen-ying
Professor Lo Chung-mau