07/28/2020, 14.23
HONG KONG – CHINA
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Firing pro-democracy leaders from universities is ‘political persecution’

by Paul Wang

Pro-democracy lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun lost his position as lecturer at Baptist University. Benny Tai, an associate professor at Hong Kong University (HKU), is waiting to hear his fate from HKU’s governing council today. Both are leaders of the Occupy Central movement, sentenced last year for causing public disorder and inciting public nuisance. Beijing fears a pro-democracy victory in the upcoming September elections. Carrie Lam could delay them citing the coronavirus.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Hong Kong Baptist University has decided not to renew the contract of lecturer and pro-democracy lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun after he was jailed in connection with the 2014 Occupy Central protests. Another Occupy Central leader, Benny Lai, is expected to be fired from Hong Kong University (HKU).

Baptist University Personnel Department told Shiu Ka-chun about their decision via e-mail, but did not provide any explanation nor intends to make it public for "privacy" reasons. For Shiu, this is "political persecution".

The Occupy Central protest, one of the largest civil disobedience movement in Hong Kong’s history, broke out in September 2014 and lasted for almost three months after Beijing rejected the demand for universal suffrage for the election of this chief executive. Instead, the latter will be elected by a committee, filled with people picked mostly by Beijing, from ​​a shortlist of candidates, also chosen by Beijing.

Shiu was convicted along with Benny Tai and seven other leaders in April 2019 on charges of conspiracy to cause public disorder and incite public nuisance.

Initially, Baptist University told Shiu to stop teaching, but kept him on as a researcher even though he spent six months in prison until last October and is preparing an appeal against the sentence.

“A publicly funded university has chosen to side with the authorities to suppress dissident views,” a bitter Shiu said.

Benny Tai’s fate will be sealed today, at a meeting of HKU’s governing council, which will decide whether to keep him on as an associate professor.

His friends are pessimistic. The council is headed by Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, a personal adviser to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, who approved Beijing’s security law for Hong Kong. 

Tai, 56, was sentenced to 16 months, but is out on bail pending his appeal.  A few weeks ago, HKU’s senate decided that Tai's "misconduct" did not warrant dismissal. However, the final word belongs to the council, which includes many pro-Beijing members. The latter met today and decided, late in the evening, to fire Tai by a vote of 18 to 2, unofficial reports indicate.

Benny Tai is the promoter of primary polls in the pro-democracy movement, on 11 and 12 July. Despite the limits imposed by police because of the COVID-19 emergency, the oppressive heat and the security law, the elections saw the participation of 600,000 people. Beijing was not pleased.

Pro-Beijing parties fear that if the elections are held in September, the pro-democracy movement could win a majority in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo), after winning district elections last November.

At present some indications suggest that Carrie Lam might try to postpone the elections because of the coronavirus epidemic.

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