A prominent university in Hong Kong fired its law professor, Benny Tai, because of a criminal conviction over his role in the 2014 pro-democracy demonstrations.
56-year-old Mr Tai accused Beijing University (HKU) of bowing down due to pressure from Beijing and said the decision was “the end of academic freedom”.
Mr. Tai was one of the founders of the “Umbrella Protest” that paralyzed Hong Kong’s business districts for weeks.
Last year, a court sentenced him to 16 months in prison for his role.
He was granted bail in August pending an appeal.
The 2014 protest, which was largely peaceful, lasted more than 70 days as people took to the streets to call for democracy.
The university deciding the council to sack Mr Tai goes against a previous decision by its Senate, which had insufficient grounds to dismiss Mr Tai for misconduct.
According to local media, 18 members of the university’s committee voted for its expulsion, with two against.
If he wants to appeal the decision, he must either go through the university’s chancellor – Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam – or a judicial review, the South China Morning Post reports.
- China passed controversial Hong Kong security law
- Hong Kong democracy activists went to jail
Writing in a Facebook post, Mr Tai said: “Educational staff in educational institutions in Hong Kong are no longer free to make controversial statements to the general public about politically or socially controversial matters.”
The decision to fire him was made “not by the University of Hong Kong, but by an authority beyond the university through its agents,” adding, “I am witness to the demise of my beloved university.”
The university said in a statement that it had resolved a personnel issue concerning a teaching staff member “following a strict and fair due process”.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-Beijing Liaison Office, which represents Beijing’s government in Hong Kong, welcomed his expulsion, saying: “Hong Kong University’s decision to fire Benny Tai is a move that punishes evil And praises the virtuous. “
Chinese state media have accused him of complicity with foreign forces and described him as a “staunch troublemaker”.
The university’s decision came weeks after a controversial security law was passed in the city, giving China more powers.
The law criminalizes isolation, sabotage and collusion with foreign forces, but critics say the terms are vaguely defined and the law effectively governs Hong Kong’s independence.
It also comes amid local media reports that Hong Kong’s Parliament – Legislative Council elections may be postponed by a year. News outlets HK01, Hong Kong Economic Times and TVB said the decision was taken by the government, which is yet to be formally announced due to coronovirus concerns.
Mr. Tai has been accused by the Hong Kong-Beijing Liaison Office of trying to bring about a revolution. He had helped organize opposition priorities earlier this month, which attracted hundreds of thousands of voters.