Polytechnic University’s deputy president Alexander Wai Ping-kong has beaten more than 200 candidates and emerged as the sole finalist in the selection of Hong Kong Baptist University’s next leader, the Post has learned.
Two sources confirmed on Tuesday that Wai was the only candidate for the post of president and vice-chancellor, as the university held three sessions with student representatives to address their concerns, including political issues such as the national security law.
Wai, whose research interests include fibre optic communications, first joined PolyU in 1996. He was appointed the deputy president and provost at PolyU on March 1 this year for a five-year term.
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He earned a physics degree from the University of Hong Kong in 1981 before getting master’s and PhD degrees in physics from the University of Maryland, College Park in the United States in 1985 and 1988, respectively.
He will join four consultation forums to meet teachers, students and alumni at Baptist University on Wednesday. A final decision on the post will be made on the same day by the university’s search committee afterwards.
The committee considered more than 200 local and overseas candidates in a search that began in March, conducting video conferencing and face-to-face meetings.
During the 13-day siege at PolyU’s campus in Hung Hom last year, Wai had entered the campus occupied by protesters and helped clean the university’s canteen and searched for students who remained at the campus surrounded by police.
In an interview with the Post earlier this month, Wai said he believed the national security law would have only a limited impact on PolyU’s research and academic work, as well as its attractiveness to international students.
“In terms of academic freedom, as PolyU focuses on engineering and applied sciences, I can’t see any significant impact following the implementation of the national security law,” he said.
“For other subjects such as humanities and whether the national security law will send out a chilling effect, we will have to see how the Hong Kong government and Beijing actually enforce the law.”
If Wai assumes the role, he will succeed Roland Chin Tai-hong, Baptist University’s fifth president and vice-chancellor, who served one term of five years.
Baptist University did not respond to a Post query by press time, while PolyU said it "would not comment on information which has not been confirmed".
Chin, a scholar in computer science, announced last November that he would be stepping down after his five-year tenure ends this August, saying he had “passed the normal retirement age” at the age of 68. He had denied his decision had to do with the city's political turmoil.
Benson Wong Wai-kwok, vice-chairman of Baptist University’s faculty and staff union, hoped Wai could improve communications between staff and management.
Wong, a former Baptist University staff member and a part-time teacher at Chinese University and the University of Hong Kong, also said it would be ideal for the university’s long-term development if Wai were to serve for more than one term.
Both Chin and his predecessor, Albert Chan Sun-chi, served only one five-year term each before stepping down.