The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has fired veteran pro-democracy activist Benny Tai from his pro-active post as associate professor of law, a move he called “an end to academic freedom” in the Chinese-ruled region.
Without naming Tai, the university said in a statement that the decision reached “through a fair and lengthy process”, but a prominent pro-democracy observer warned Wednesday that “without any independent and independent” educational institutions The group, Hong Kong, will “degenerate into another city”.
Tai was a leading figure in Hong Kong’s 2014 “Umbrella” protests that paralyzed the city for 79 days as protesters took to major streets to demand more democracy.
He was sentenced to 16 months in prison last year for two public nuisance offenses, but was released on bail under an appeal – a conviction that prompted HKU to begin reviewing his position.
Tuesday’s ruling by the Governing Council overturned an earlier decision by the university senate that there were not enough grounds for dismissal.
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According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the University Council voted 18–2 to remove Tai.
“It marks the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong,” Tai wrote on Facebook. “Educational institutions in Hong Kong cannot protect their members from internal and external interference.”
‘Attack on academic freedom’
Tai was kicked out for this month by Beijing officials for helping an informal primary vote for the pro-democracy camp select candidates for the September elections for the city legislature.
Officials said the vote was illegal and potentially violated a new, comprehensive national security law that many fear would destroy independence in a semi-autonomous city, including media and academics.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Liaison Office, the chief representative in the city of Beijing, strongly criticized Tai, saying his dismissal was “an act to punish evil, promote good and conform to the will of the people” “.
Academic tenure used to be a protective shield for independence. #CCP Interferes with institutions of higher education. Does the pedophile hate the cult of Mao? Independent and without independent universities #HK A 2 rate degenerate in the city. https://t.co/QH2LTX2z9O
– Jimmy Lai (@JimmyLaiApple) July 29, 2020
The statement said that Tai’s words and deeds “have severely intensified social conflicts in Hong Kong and poisoned Hong Kong’s political climate”.
The government of Beijing and Hong Kong have said that the law will not affect rights and freedoms, and it is necessary to remove security loopholes.
Meanwhile, HKU Council’s graduate representative, Nathaniel Lei, told reporters after the vote on Tuesday that the decision was “a grave tragic” of academic freedom.
HKU politics professor Joseph Chan was also quoted as saying that the university “sacrificed its reputation” with the move, adding that “it will not be able to hold its head high in the international academic community.”
On Monday, Hong Kong Baptist University also announced that it was not renewing the contract of outgoing Legislative Council member Shiu Ka-chun over its role in the pro-democracy protests.
Al Jazeera and news agencies