Students trap Li

Top News | Kenneth Lau and Amy Nip 27 Jan 2016

University of Hong Kong council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung was trapped in a HKU building late last night after his first meeting. That was after a clash between a mass of students and council members became chaotic.

The controversial Li was chairing a first meeting of the governing body since being appointed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in late December despite alumni and students opposing his appointment.

Li was forced back when he tried to leave after the meeting ended just after 8pm, but came up against protesting students.

He and several council members remained trapped inside a room at the Interdisciplinary Research facility on Sassoon Road - where Li had presided over the meeting - hours later.

Students also tried to block an ambulance carrying council member Leonie Ki Man-fung. She had complained of feeling sick, but angry students said they saw her smirking and accused her of wasting ambulance time.

Members of a 30-strong squad of Police Tactical Unit officers at the scene finally persuaded the students to let the ambulance through with Ki about 11pm.

HKU has been mired in conflict since the council last year rejected a committee recommendation to appoint pro-democracy academic Johannes Chan Man-mun as pro vice-chancellor.

And reports late last night were that HKU chair professor of psychology, Terry Au Kit-fong, had been appointed acting pro vice chancellor.

Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, a leader of the HKU Students Strike Organizing Committee that has led a week-long class boycott, also urged Li to come out and talk with them.

And council member Eric Cheung Tat-ming of the Faculty of Law, acting as a middleman between the students and fellow council members, tried to persuade Li to start a dialogue.

Strike committee member Wong Chun-kit said: "If the members don't come out, we won't retreat."

About 200 students had been protesting outside the research building before the council meeting even began at 5pm.

The situation worsened at 8pm when students heard that there would be no meeting between them and the council.

Among demands, students want a review of the HKU Ordinance, including the automatic appointment of the SAR's chief executive as the university's chancellor.

The HKU announced last night that the council "unanimously agreed to set up a review panel to study the governance and effectiveness of the university."

But students heard too that may not happen for at least two months - after a separate review by the University Grants Committee.

So as council members attempted to leave the building for the car park escorted by security guards at about 8.40pm, the entrances were blocked by students. And when they retreated into the building a female staffer sandwiched by the crowd fell on a step.

Meanwhile, education-sector lawmaker and HKU Alumni Concern Group convenor Ip Kin-yuen proposed to draft a private bill to amend the HKU Ordinance and safeguard the autonomy of the university.

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