Hong Kong

2 Pro-Democracy University Employees in Hong Kong Fired as Beijing-Imposed National Security Law Takes Effect

"Academic staff...are no longer free to make controversial statements to the general public about politically or socially controversial matters," one of them writes.

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With Hong Kong's new national security law in place, two public universities in the Chinese city have begun shedding faculty members with a history of expressing anti-Beijing sentiments.

On July 27, news broke that Shiu Ka-chun, who teaches at Hong Kong Baptist University, will not have his teaching contract renewed, with no official reason given for the decision. A day later, Benny Tai was fired from his tenured position at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Both Shiu and Tai have faced legal trouble for their involvement in the 2014 protests for freedom in Hong Kong. Both helped galvanize support for the pro-democracy demonstrations, sometimes called the Occupy Movement or Umbrella Movement, and have been major players in calling for full democracy in the city. Shiu was convicted in April 2019 of inciting others to cause a public nuisance and of inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance; he was released from jail in October 2019, after serving six months. Tai was convicted at the same time on some of the same charges; he was sentenced to a 16-month prison term but was released on bail in August 2019. 

Now both men have been expelled from their respective universities, as the institutions rush to dissociate themselves from dissidents.

Tai wrote on Facebook:

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. 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.

South China Morning Post reports that he "learned his fate on Tuesday night after the HKU council reversed a recommendation by the university's senate earlier this month that there were not enough grounds to dismiss him." (The council is the university's governing body, made up of students, staff, and laypeople.) Beijing's liaison office welcomed the sacking as a "move that punishes evil and praises the virtuous."

The national security law, which went into effect at the beginning of July, is China's attempt to exercise greater control over Hong Kong and its pro-democracy agitators. The New York Times reports that the law "has drawn criticism for introducing ambiguously defined crimes such as separatism and collusion that can be used to stifle protest" and that it "sets obedience to Beijing above the former British colony's civil freedoms."

Neither Shiu nor Tai have called for violence. In fact, in 2014 Tai advocated nonviolent civil disobedience in The New York Times: "Blocking government may be even more powerful than blocking roads. Refusal to pay taxes, delaying rent payments by tenants in public housing estates and filibustering in the Legislative Council, along with other such acts of noncooperation, could make governing more inconvenient."

Since 1997, when the British handed Hong Kong over to China, the territory has operated under the "one country, two systems" policy, which the city a degree of autonomy. As a result, most Hongkongers are accustomed to freedom of speech, a fair shake in court, and the ability to elect many of their lawmakers. Mainlanders, on the other hand, face regular suppression of speech at the hands of an authoritarian state.

As Beijing tightens its grip on Hong Kong, it's not just Tai and Shiu who are paying the price: Universities hell bent on caving to Beijing are threatening longstanding norms of academic freedom, and they'll be much worse for it.

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  1. Hong Kongers, find a way out to another country. Just about any other country is better than the future you’re facing.

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  2. They should come to America where they’ll be free to say any…

    shit. Carry on.

  3. That could never happen at universities in America.

    1. 4.5/10

  4. https://twitter.com/stillgray/status/1288880549688303616

    Critical thread. If the Three Gorges Dam fails, every single one of China’s plans for world dominance will come to an end. It won’t have an economy left as every major city critical to its manufacturing, military, science, technology, and trade, would drown.

    The end of China.

    Ian Miles Cheong
    @stillgray
    ·
    1h
    Replying to
    @stillgray
    It would be a tragedy of unparalleled scale in human history. Much of the world depends on China’s agricultural exports, medicine, and other critical supply chains. Millions would starve and more would die of preventable illnesses.

    That’s what you get for depending on China.
    Ian Miles Cheong
    @stillgray
    ·
    1h
    There are multiple nuclear power plants in the path of the floods, if it breaks. The devastation would dwarf Chernobyl and Fukushima.

    1. Amazing. At the thought of Three Gorges Dam failing, the author chooses to focus on the tragedy that would ensue when Western nations couldn’t meet their supply chains from China. How about all of the dead Chinese that would result? Isn’t that a far worse tragedy?

    2. Thanks for sharing. I missed that story.

    3. China is the world’s largest food importer.

    4. good to know. When WWIII kicks off, take it out first.

  5. Welcome to your future America as left wingers take over.

  6. These poor people. What a nightmare to have your city and all your circle of friends and family pulled into totalitarian China. Time to leave. Hong Kongers, GET OUT.

  7. …and inciting others who incited others who incited yet others to cause a “public nuisance.” The causation could be as endless as the offense is vague.

    1984 is definitely not fiction. And I foresee it happening here in the US, and of course with the very best of intentions to end racism, misogyny, climate change, inequality….whatever vessel floats the boat.

  8. It’s nice to see Reason talking about the end of liberty in Hong Kong despite the general media blackout.

    Whenever I hear about brutal authoritarian dictatorships and the atrocities they commit, it always feels like an “over there” problem. As awful as it is, it’s hard to relate to personally. But the people of Hong Kong were nominally free first worlders just like us until they were suddenly plunged into a communist dictatorship. That’s something I can personally relate to, that I’m just living my life here and then one day the government changes and now I have to worry about being sent to a gulag because the tweets I posted or the party I belong to or the friends I talk to suddenly became the wrong tweets or party or friends. That terrifies me.

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  9. Wow, soon they will catch up to Berkeley in suppressing free speech.

  10. Honestly, who didn’t see this happening eventually, after ceding HK to China? Just a little earlier than expected. Watch out, Taiwan, if Biden the Great gets elected. Like in Bloodsport, “You are next!”.

    1. If Trump really wants to slap back at the Chinese, he should officially recognize Taiwan.

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  12. [“Academic staff…are no longer free to make controversial statements to the general public about politically or socially controversial matters,” one of them writes.]

    Barbaric. In the US you’re free to make all the controversial statements that the radical left agrees with…

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