The University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) governing body voted on July 28 to fire longtime associate law professor and pro-democracy leader, Benny Tai. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Indian Journalists Union (IJU) urges HKU to reinstate Tai immediately.
Tai is a key figure in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and was convicted on public nuisance charges last year due to his leading role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement sit-in street protests. Tai was sentenced to 16 months in prison, however he was released on bail while he appealed the conviction.
HKU has faced widespread calls from its pro-Beijing members to dismiss Tai after his involvement in pro-democracy activism, but supporters argued that doing so would undermine academic freedom and debate.
“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. Academic 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,” Benny Tai said in a Facebook post.
The IFJ and IJU said: “Academia and freedom of expression in Hong Kong are interconnected and the dismissal of Benny Tai sets a worrisome precedent for the future of expression and democracy. The IFJ and IJU calls on Hong Kong authorities to drop the existing charges against Benny Tai and for HKU to reinstate him immediately.” Journalists Union of Assam an affiliate of IJU also expressed solidarity with the pro democracy leaders.