The University of Hong Kong has fired a pro-democracy law professor who was convicted last year of “public nuisance” charges for his leading role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.
Professor Benny Tai, a key figure in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, is being fired from the University of Hong Kong after a vote by the school’s governing body on Tuesday, according to a report by the New York Times.
Last year, Tai was sentenced to 16 months in prison after being convicted of public nuisance charges. Tai is appealing his conviction.
“The university had faced widespread calls from members of the pro-Beijing establishment to dismiss Mr. Tai,” reported Times. “But his supporters argued that dismissing him would undermine academic freedom that has already been imperiled by a new national security law imposed by Beijing.”
The university said in a statement that it has “resolved a personnel issue concerning a teaching staff member,” following a “stringent and impartial due process.”
In a press release later on Tuesday, @HKUniversity said it had "resolved a personnel issue concerning a teaching staff member."
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@HongKongFP) July 28, 2020
In a statement on Facebook, Tai said that “the decision to terminate my appointment was made not by the University of Hong Kong but by an authority beyond the University through its agents.”
“It marks the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong,” he added.
“Academic staff in education institutions in Hong Kong are no longer free to make controversial statements to the general public about politically or socially controversial matters,” continued Tai. “Academic institutions in Hong Kong cannot protect their members from internal and outside interference.”
Meanwhile, Joseph Chan, a political-science professor at the university, claims that “the University of Hong Kong has sacrificed its reputation and it will not be able to hold its head high in the international academic community.”
“This day will become a major stain in the history of the University of Hong Kong that cannot be washed away,” he added.