Benny Tai, Pro-Democracy Professor, Fired in Hong Kong

  • The decision to fire him was “made not by the University of Hong Kong but by an authority beyond the University through its agents.”
  • Beijing's Liaison Office, which oversees Hong Kong, welcomed the firing of the professor.
  • The scholar’s firing caused consternation and outrage among activists in the Special Administrative Region.

The firing of a university professor who happens to be a very prominent figure in the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, Benny Tai, this Wednesday, is causing outrage at Beijing’s pressure on the former British colony. Through a Facebook post, the professor lamented his sacking.

Benny Tai is a Hong Kong legal scholar and democracy activist. He was an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong and is known for his initiation of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a non-violent civil disobedience campaign to pressure the Hong Kong government to implement full democracy in 2014, which turned into the massive pro-democracy protests.

“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,” Professor Tai said.

The law professor elaborated that the decision to fire him was “made not by the University of Hong Kong but by an authority beyond the University through its agents.” Tai added that “I am heartbroken to witness the demise of my beloved university.”

The Liaison Office, which represents the Central Government of the People’s Republic of China in Hong Kong, on its part welcomed the firing of the professor, and said in a statement that Benny Tai “is an evil person.” It elaborated that “the University of Hong Kong’s decision to fire Benny Tai is a move that punishes evil and praises the virtuous,” read part of the statement.

The scholar’s firing caused consternation and outrage among activists in the Special Administrative Region, marked by months of unprecedented challenge against Beijing, which recently imposed the new national security law that violates Hong Kong’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

” Benny Tai has become a martyr to civil disobedience,” said Joseph Chan, professor of political science at the University of Hong Kong in a message on Facebook. Chan added that the university “sacrificed its reputation” with the move, adding that “it will not be able to hold its head high in the international academic community.”

The Hong Kong national security law is a decision adopted by the third session of the thirteenth National People’s Congress, to authorize the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to promulgate a national security law in Hong Kong. The pan-democratic camp, human rights organisations and politicians abroad have criticised the decision as a threat to the “one country, two systems” principle, the rule of law and civil liberties.

Sophie Richardson, from the China section of the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, protested the decision, and said that universities around the world should review relations with the University of Hong Kong. “Beijing now extends its reach to academic freedoms in [Hong Kong],” said Joshua Wong, a figure in the student protest movement against Beijing. 

Benny Tai called today, through Facebook, for the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to prevent the dismissal process. “Though I know this is a futile process, Carrie Lam cannot evade her responsibility [for] infringing [on] Hong Kong’s academic freedom,” wrote Benny Tai, accusing Beijing of direct pressure on the university’s decision. 

Tai is a popular figure in the pro-Democratic camp in Hong Kong, an advocate of nonviolence, and heavily criticized by the authorities. The University of Hong Kong, for its part, has not yet explained the reasons for the firing of the professor or answered questions from journalists.

Benny Tai was one of the founders of the “Occupy Central” movement in 2013. In 2019, Tai was sentenced to 16 months in prison for “responsibility and involvement” in the protest movements.

Recently, the law professor was involved in organizing the primaries that chose pro-democracy candidates for the September elections in Hong Kong. More than 600,000 people participated in the vote deemed illegal by the local executive, with the Liaison Office accusing “Benny Tai’s gang of trying to provoke a revolution.”

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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