University chair resigns amid Hong Kong discord

Head of the embattled MTR subway system steps down from Lingnan

October 9, 2019
Yuen Long MTR station, Hong Kong
Source: iStock
Yuen Long MTR station, Hong Kong

The chair of a Hong Kong university’s council, who also chaired the city’s protest-hit transit system, has announced his resignation.

Rex Auyeung’s departure from Lingnan University, a liberal arts institution, took immediate effect, according to a government announcement, and comes a year before his term was due to end.

He had been caught in the crossfire of controversy after taking the helm at the MTR Corporation in July, just after mass demonstrations turned violent, leading to vandalism and police tear-gassing inside subway stations. The system continues to be affected by shutdowns and early closures.

In July, Mr Auyeung sent a letter to the education secretary, Kevin Yeung, about Junius Ho, a pro-Beijing lawmaker who sits on Lingnan’s council. There were suspicions that Mr Ho condoned an attack by white shirt-wearing assailants on members of the public at an MTR station in Yuen Long. Dozens of “white shirts” were arrested – white being affiliated with pro-establishment protesters, and black normally being worn by pro-democracy protesters.

In a widely circulated video, Mr Ho was seen in Yuen Long applauding, giving a thumbs up and shaking hands with men who were wearing white and carrying Hong Kong’s flag. Mr Ho added fuel to the fire in September, when he said that pro-independence activists should be “killed”. Pro-independence separatists comprise a radical minority of the demonstrators, who are lobbying for greater political rights and against police violence.

Lingnan said that Mr Ho’s comments were made in a personal capacity and did not represent the university, but they nevertheless triggered a campus protest in October.

The government statement said that Mr Auyeung had resigned “to focus more on his other public service”.

Mr Yeung, the education secretary, expressed regret over the decision.

“Under [Mr Auyeung’s] excellent leadership, [Lingnan] has maintained its fine liberal arts tradition in providing quality whole-person education and has made every effort to nurture talents with both strong capabilities and humanistic values,” Mr Yeung said.

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