Misconduct allegations against University of Hong Kong head Xiang Zhang ‘not substantiated’, governing body says after 6-month probe

The governing body of Hong Kong’s oldest university has said allegations of misconduct and mismanagement against the vice-chancellor have not been substantiated following months of investigation.

In a late-night statement on Friday, the governing council of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) said it had accepted a report submitted by a five-member panel which investigated a series of whistle-blowing emails against vice-chancellor Xiang Zhang.

“On the evidence available to the panel, allegations made in the whistle-blower emails regarding misconduct by the vice-chancellor were not substantiated,” the council said.

It said the panel investigated each of the matters and issues reported in the complaint emails in accordance with the university’s whistle-blowing policy.

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Council committees would review the report’s findings and suggest measures to prevent such issues from occurring again, it said.

In response, Zhang said in a statement released after midnight that his “name has been finally cleared” after six months of investigations and he condemned those spreading serious defamatory remarks against him and the university through anonymous emails.

He also said the university should exercise caution when utilising an anonymous whistle-blower reporting system to prevent abuse and protect the rights of the accused.

HKU’s reputation has been damaged, the vice-chancellor says. Photo: Sam Tsang

Zhang, a Chinese-American scientist, pointed to the damage done to the university’s reputation by the incident, noting that some internationally renowned scholars who had already signed contracts with HKU had withdrawn.

“Colleagues now fear being involved in unfounded complaints, and such fear greatly hampers their daily work.” Zhang said.

“Moreover, the university’s development plans have suffered setbacks and, in some cases, have been put on hold.

“The global talent recruitment scheme has been hindered and top international scholars who had previously committed to joining HKU were deterred.”

The investigation panel was chaired by Jimmy Ng Wing-ka, chairman of the university’s audit committee, with two council members and two non-members making up the five.

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Last September, council members received emails from anonymous whistle-blowers, who accused Zhang of misconduct and mismanagement.

The allegations included inappropriate handling of donations from a mainland Chinese corporation, recruiting without bidding a headhunter from the United States to hire a pro-vice-chancellor in institutional advancement and a medical dean, and asking that the candidates have a US university background.

Zhang said at the time the whistle-blowers had deliberately distorted the facts to discredit him and the university, which constituted “a serious defamation”.

He said he was “extremely angry and disappointed” about the distortion of information and use of the media to “launch smear campaigns” against him, HKU and people who supported the university.


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