Hong Kong democracy activist vows to appeal sacking by university

Benny Tai in Hong Kong earlier this month.APVincent Yu

Benny Tai in Hong Kong earlier this month.APVincent Yu  

Law professor Benny Tai was fired by a disciplinary panel

A prominent Hong Kong democracy activist on Wednesday vowed to appeal his sacking by a top university as city leaders and education chiefs were accused of failing to defend academic freedoms under Beijing’s tightening grip.

Law professor Benny Tai, 56, said he was fired on Tuesday by a disciplinary committee at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) after he was jailed last year for taking part in pro-democracy protests. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr. Tai said he would appeal the university’s decision and consider launching a judicial review.

Appeal to Lam

He also made a personal appeal to city leader Carrie Lam, a pro-Beijing appointee. “Though I know this is a futile process, Carrie Lam cannot evade... her responsibility of infringing Hong Kong’s academic freedom,” wrote Mr. Tai, accusing Beijing of influencing the university’s decision. Mr. Tai is a leading figure within Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

The Liaison Office, which represents Beijing’s government in the semi-autonomous city, released a statement late on Tuesday calling Mr. Tai “evil” and welcoming his removal.

The sacking has sent a new chill through the semi-autonomous city’s campuses already rattled by Beijing imposition of a sweeping national security law last month that has begun to criminalise certain political views.

‘A martyr’

“Benny Tai has become a martyr to civil disobedience,” Joseph Chan, a political science professor at HKU, wrote on his Facebook page.

Sophie Richardson, a China expert with Human Rights Watch, said international universities should now reassess their relationship with HKU.

Joshua Wong, a prominent student activist who has also served jail time for leading protests wrote: “#Beijing now extends its reach to academic freedoms in #HK.”

The university has yet to issue a statement outlining why Mr. Tai was sacked and how it came to the decision.

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