HKU finds no communist link evidence

Local | Mandy Zheng 29 Oct 2020

The governing council of the University of Hong Kong found no evidence that vice-president Max Shen Zuojun is a Chinese Communist Party member based on his public denial, council member Eric Cheung Tat-ming said.

His remarks yesterday came after Shen and Gong Peng, two mainland professors from Tsinghua University, were named HKU's new vice presidents at a council meeting Tuesday.

Their appointments have sparked controversy, as Shen was listed as a CCP member on Tsinghua's website until last Thursday. The listing was later removed, and Shen clarified in a statement that he was not a party member and the website operator had made a mistake.

Gong has denied a rumor that he had helped a top Beijing official's daughter get into the University of California, Berkeley, where he is a professor emeritus.

Sources said that most HKU council members supported the duo's appointment at the meeting, with only one against it.

This was because Shen had explicitly denied such suspicions, and there was no evidence that he had lied, Cheung said.

"After all, it would be difficult to conduct due diligence, as Shen already denied it in public. There's no way we can ask him to provide evidence like in a court hearing," Cheung said.

He added that he did not want to vote down a candidate based on "political censorship," especially considering that HKU faced obstacles recruiting well-known foreign scholars for the role of vice president.

But the council's undergraduate representative Daniel Lei Tsz-shing insisted that Shen's appointment be deferred until his political affiliations were thoroughly investigated.

"As a responsible higher education institution, HKU has capability and duty to do a due diligence probe," Lei said.

He added that despite Shen's clarification, students' doubts remained, as Tsinghua had suddenly removed his CCP title.

"This is not over. When Shen comes to Hong Kong, there will be tens of thousands of eyes watching him. It will be impossible for him to bring any political elements into the campus," Lei said.

Editorial: HKU controversy is purely academic

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