10/07/2015, 00.00
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Academic barred for being "a friend of Occupy Central"

Johannes Chan Man-mun has been barred from the post of pro-vice-chancellor. Fr Gianni Criveller, PIME missionary in Hong Kong, gives his opinion on the matter. Yesterday, 2,000 students and teaching staff marched in silence through the HKU campus for their autonomy from China. "This is one of many episodes,” Criveller said. "From now until the 2017 elections, Beijing will make its presence felt more and more.” A second rally is scheduled on 9 October.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The situation in Hong Kong "is serious,” said Fr Gianni Criveller, PIME missionary in Hong Kong. There are “many episodes in which China tries to take more and more control” in political, economic and financial matters. The decision to bar Prof Johannes Chan Man-mun from the post of University of Hong Kong (HKU) pro-vice-chancellor is one of them.

At least 2,000 students, support and teaching staff staged a silent protest on campus against Beijing’s interference in the university’s administration. For Fr Criveller, the prominent law professor was “barred for political reasons because he is a friend of Benny Tai, one of the founders of the Occupy Central movement.”

Dressed in black, protesters marched through the campus, joined by some pro-democracy activists, including Benny Tai. All the faculties were represented. A second rally is scheduled for Friday, 9 October.

"I don't think the university is yet in a terror culture," former Arts Dean Douglas Kerr said. "But it begins with people being uncertain about what level of academic and intellectual independence they can exercise."

"There has been a slow and steady campaign going on in the council," said rally organiser Prof Timothy O'Leary. "HKU is in a crisis of governance. The chairman must address the [appointment] issue immediately."

"This is one of many episodes in which China tries to take more and more control. It is certainly not the only one," Fr Criveller said.

“For example, a few days ago, the territory’s former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, a Catholic, was charged with conflict of interest during his term of office. Many see this as Beijing’s punishment and a warning to Hong Kong politicians to follow the party line; otherwise they’ll pay a heavy price."

"It is an [act of] intimidation ahead of the vote in 2017," the missionary explained. “Tsang was not very bold; but he is a practicing Catholic, close to democratic ideas and his friend, Cardinal Zen."

"Hong Kong’s Chinese critics want the Territory to become ‘decolonised’, i.e. cut all ties from Britain,” Fr Criveller noted. “They believe in rule by law (which can be changed), not in British-style rule of law, to which Donald Tsang adhered.”

“Over the next two years, the pro-Beijing tendency can only grow,” said the clergyman. “The economic situation is already favourable only to super-rich tourists from China. Government policies protect the few wealthy families who control the financial sector.”

What is more, “Rents have skyrocketed and shops sell only super-luxury items. Those who sell ordinary things are not making any money because rents are too high. The people of Hong Kong are hurting."

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