PolyU chief to retire amid rights row

Top News | Sophie Hui 28 Sep 2017

Polytechnic University president Timothy Tong Wai-cheung will soon retire - the fourth university head who will step down next year.

Tong will retire after he completes 10 years in the post at the end of 2018.

University of Hong Kong's Peter Mathieson and Chinese University's Joseph Sung Jao-yiu will also be leaving in January, and University of Science and Technology's Tony Chan Fan- cheong is stepping down in September.

Tong told staff and students of his decision in an e-mail on Tuesday, saying he had served the university for nearly nine years, and that "the opportunity to serve PolyU and Hong Kong was both a challenge and an honor."

He added: "The new level of academic and research vigor has resulted in enhanced recognition and reputation, and more importantly, our new model of education has sent forth graduates who are not only successful professionals, but also socially responsible citizens."

Tong said the university is "well- positioned for a demanding and exciting future," and "it is now time to look forward to the next phase of development under a new leader for even greater success."

A PolyU spokesman said the university council "regretted to note president Tong's decision," and that he had "made significant contributions to the university, translating our vision for education and research into reality" over the past nine years.

He said the university's council "will soon start a global search to identify a suitable candidate for this challenging and demanding post" and it will "ensure a smooth transition for the benefit of the university."

Tong was first named president in 2009 for a five-year term. His contract was renewed to the end of next year.

His decision to step down comes amid the Hong Kong independence controversy, and after students put up posters condemning Tong for trying to control their freedom of expression. Those posters were removed by the university.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin- yuen said the departure of four presidents involves different reasons, but he thinks it's normal and understandable for Tong to leave after he finished his second term.

He also thinks PolyU has developed steadily over the years.

But Ip feels that those who leave before their contracts end could have a negative impact on the universities.

Ip said being a university head is no easy position, as the person has to face the pressure of political arguments, as well as the students' desire for free speech.

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