Hong Kong University fires Professor Benny Tai for leading protests
A leading Hong Kong university fired its law professor, Benny Tai, over a criminal conviction for his role in the 2014 pro-democracy protests.
Mr. Tai, 56, accused the University of Hong Kong (HKU) of giving in to pressure from Beijing and said the decision was "the end of academic freedom."
Mr. Tai was one of the founders of the "umbrella protests" that crippled Hong Kong's business districts for weeks.
Last year, a court sentenced him to 16 months in prison for his role.
He was released on bail in August, pending an appeal.
The 2014 protests, which were largely peaceful, lasted for more than 70 days as people took to the streets to call for democracy.
The university board's decision to fire Mr. Tai runs counter to an earlier ruling by his senate that while Mr. Tai was at fault, there were no grounds sufficient to fire him.
According to local media, 18 members of the university committee voted for his impeachment, with two against.
If he wishes to appeal the decision, he must either go through the chancellor of the university - Hong Kong Managing Director Carrie Lam, either by judicial review, reports the South China Morning Post.
In an article on Facebook Mr. Tai said, “Academic staff at educational institutions in Hong Kong are no longer free to make controversial statements to the general public on politically or socially controversial issues. "
The decision to fire him was not taken "by the University of Hong Kong but by an authority beyond the University through its agents", he said, adding "I have the heart broken to witness the demise of my beloved university ”.
The university said in a statement that it had "resolved a personnel issue regarding a member of the teaching staff" after "strict and impartial due process."
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-Beijing Liaison Office, which represents the Beijing government in Hong Kong, welcomed his dismissal, saying, “The decision of the University of Hong Kong to fire Benny Tai is a move that punishes the government. evil and praised the virtuous.
Chinese state media accused him of colluding with foreign forces and described him as an "unconditional troublemaker."
The university's decision comes weeks after the adoption of a controversial law on security in the city, giving more power to China.
The law criminalizes secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces, but critics say the terms are loosely defined and the law effectively restricts Hong Kong's freedoms.
It also comes amid reports from local media that elections for Hong Kong's parliament - the Legislative Council - could be postponed for a year. News organizations HK01, Hong Kong Economic Times and TVB said the government made the decision, which has yet to be officially announced, due to coronavirus concerns.
Mr. Tai was accused by the Hong Kong-Beijing Liaison Office of attempting to start a revolution. He had helped organize opposition primaries earlier this month , which attracted hundreds of thousands of voters.
This article appeared first on: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-53567333