The academic-turned-equality watchdog chief Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming has conceded he did not declare his service at a Philippines university when he was teaching at Lingnan University.
The new Equal Opportunities Commission chairman, who only took up the new post on Monday, was forced to apologise as his integrity was questioned after the media exposed a possible conflict of interest, in that he supervised a non-Lingnan student for her doctoral thesis at Tarlac State University in the Philippines.
That university was also at centre of a “diploma factory” scandal involving Lifelong College, a Hong Kong college set up by a member of the Lingnan governing body, Dr Alex Lee Ye-lick.
The Apple Daily reported on Monday that Professor Chan, who was chair professor of social gerontology at Lingnan before joining the commission, had failed to report to his employer about his service for Tarlac State University.
A Lingnan University spokesman said on Monday that the university “did not receive any application from [Professor Chan] concerning commitment in outside practice related to Tarlac State University in the Philippines”.
Some types of outside engagements could only be taken with prior application and approval, the spokesman said.
A commission spokesman said on Monday that Professor Chan “offers his apology for his failure to declare to Lingnan University”. But it was argued that Professor Chan had been invited by Lee’s college to “help” supervise theses by students of Tarlac State University.
According to media reports, the case that had been exposed traced back to 2008. It involved Anna Tang King-yung, a district councillor of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who signed up for a doctorate course at Lingnan. Professor Chan was her doctoral supervisor.
But Tang failed, and in 2012 signed up at Tarlac State University and got her degree in about a year. Professor Chan was again her doctoral supervisor.
Tang said on Monday she was unaware whether Professor Chan had declared to Lingnan or not.
Democratic Party education affairs spokesman, legislator Helena Wong Pik-wan, urged the Education Bureau to look into the governance of Lingnan.
Wong, who is also a lecturer at Polytechnic University, said: “If [Professor Chan] got paid for his service at Tarlac, that would be moonlighting and one can’t help but question his credibility.”
She also questioned if Professor Chan was still fit to be the chairman of the equality watchdog.
Professor Chan has also been criticised for his comments on not supporting legislation against discrimination of sexual minorities, and for supporting housing asylum seekers in detention camps.
Lingnan was also pulled into controversy last year over allegations of plagiarism against its associate vice-president Herdip Singh, whose degree was also obtained from Tarlac State University through Lifelong College. Singh quit the university late last year.
The Lifelong College was dubbed “diploma factory” and provides students with degrees awarded from partner universities abroad.
Additional reporting by Ng Kang-chung