Press release

Hong Kong: Firing of Benny Tai Signals Deterioration of Academic Freedom

The University of Hong Kong’s decision was clearly directed by the Chinese Communist Party in retaliation for Mr. Tai’s prodemocracy work.

In response to the decision by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) to fire longtime law professor and prodemocracy leader Benny Tai, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“HKU’s decision to fire Benny Tai, a legal scholar respected around the world for his prodemocracy work, shows the true extent of the Chinese Communist Party’s continued strangulation of rights in Hong Kong,” said Annie Boyajian, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “Unfortunately, HKU’s decision was clearly directed by Beijing in retaliation for Mr. Tai’s prodemocracy work, and signals the loss of academic freedom in Hong Kong, previously a center of vibrant scholarly research and debate in Asia. The firing of Mr. Tai is moreover a serious blow to the reputation of HKU, which once was considered one of Hong Kong’s premier universities. The decision reinforces pessimistic predictions of how Beijing’s imposition of the repressive National Security Law could play out in Hong Kong. We urge HKU officials to reinstate Mr. Tai immediately. We call on Hong Kong authorities to drop existing public nuisance charges pending against Mr. Tai, and call on authorities in Beijing to follow the requirements of the Basic Law, rescind the National Security Law, and cease their violations of rights in Hong Kong.”

Background:

The governing body of the University of Hong Kong voted on July 28 to fire associate law professor Benny Tai, a leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests and a longtime prodemocracy activist in Hong Kong. In 2019, he was convicted on public nuisance charges connected to his role in the Umbrella Movement and sentenced to 16 months in prison; he was released on bail and is pursuing an appeal of his conviction.

Hong Kong is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020. China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019.