|Pix: University of Hong Kong governing council sacks legal scholar Benny Tai over convictions for Occupy protests|
This from the South China Morning Post:
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The University of Hong Kong’s governing council sacked legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting on Tuesday over his criminal convictions for the Occupy protest movement he co-founded in 2014. Tai, an associate professor of law and outspoken opposition activist, 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 although his actions amounted to misconduct. Responding to his dismissal, Tai said on Tuesday that academic institutions in Hong Kong “cannot protect their members from internal and outside interferences”, adding that the university council’s decision “marked the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong”. (University of Hong Kong governing council sacks legal scholar Benny Tai over convictions for Occupy protests).Professor Tai has remained committed to his principles even as it became clear that the Central Authorities were changing the fundamental premises within which they would interpret their "deal" on Hong Kong (e.g., here). He has been a key voice in the social movements in Hong Kong for a long time and continues to seek to engage in politics and other work in the SAR. He appears to be no friend of the current administration.
But several things ought to be remembered. as one considers this action and what is to come:
1. The Central Authorities have been quite transparent about their offense, and their intentions, ever since the 2014 Occupy Movement and the Umbrella Movement.On this basis the rest is (at least conceptually) straightforward. It was only a matter of time before Hong Kong's educational system would be rectified, and the key aberrational elements disciplined (e.g., here and here). This is, indeed, the guiding spirit of the Central Authorities: "dismissal as an act that punished “evil” and upheld justice" (University of Hong Kong governing council sacks legal scholar Benny Tai over convictions for Occupy protests). For those keeping score, one will be able to determine the spectrum of faculty accommodation by the extent of rectification of institutions and individuals during the next six months. The more interesting question will be to see the extent to which the Central Authorities translate (with Hong Kong characteristics) the emerging national approach to education (see, e.g., here (foreign faculty); here university staff).
2. The Central Authorities are patient. They bank their objectives and move swiftly when the opportunity presents itself. That presentaiton of opportunity is based on a balancing of costs and benefits within the much larger objectives of the Central Authroties within which Hng Kong plays an important but my no means central role.
3. The protests that started in June 2019 convinced the Central Authorities that the vanguard of threatening conduct was located within the educational system, one more closely tied to educational elite internationalism and its narratives, than to the emerging national narrative on the role, purpose and content of education and its involvement in social life.
4. That realization occurred at about the time that the Central Authorities sought to (and quite publicly) to reform education and ist delivery in the Mainland. That reform provided a template far too appealing to confine to the areas of China outside of its SARs.
5. The evolution of Marxist Leninist sovereignty--Chinese sovereign internationalism--developed to the point where it could serve as a basis for decision making, only within the last several years. The Belt and Road Initiative provided a conceptual and pragmatic basis for building an internationalism autonomous of the global internationalism the principles of which had guided the initial agreement on the transfer of Hing Kong back to China in the 1980s.
6. China had by 2019 refined both its law making and constitutional conceptions to the point where necessary action could be well justified within its own conceptual universe, And indeed, that development required something splashy to make the point. Hong Kong appeared increasingly to serve hat purpose as its social turmoil provided the context necessary to restore order--both physically and conceptually along the lines of New Era Marxist Leninism. This was an opportunity too good to pass up.
7. China's refined legalization of social credit also produced the ability to better take stck of who in Hong Kong would be subject to the rewards for good behavior and those who would be punished--and by punished one increasingly understood that to mean to be subject to social disabilities designed to induce conforming behavior. The development of social credit along with the emergence of a powerful framework under the Belt and Road Initiative were crucial elements to China's moves in 2020 to reassert authority over Hong Kong on its own terms.
8. The last and key element pushing forward Chinese thinking was the now fully developed New Era ideology. It was not for nothing that the key elite journals in Beijing had been stressing key features of the New Era Marxist Leninism, centered on the Communist Party as the leadership vanguard, and the state as the nexus of collective national efforts to attain the eventual goal of establishing a communist society in all of China. Hong Kong increasingly was viewed from this perspective as an aberration going in the wrong direction. It was aberrational as well because it could no longer be treated as something distinct from the rest of the development of the Pearl River delta. Physical and conceptual aberration produced a contradiction that violence in Hong Kong only confirmed. China only had to wait for the opportunity to resolve the contradiction.
9. And then the opportunity arose because of a perception (not unreasonable) that those who might effectively exact too high a price for any action to change the conditions of the China-Hong Kong arrangement were in no position to counter Chinese action effectively. That calculation was actually based on at least twp key factors. First, the West had been in a process of critically rejecting its own foundations in endless and self destructive critiques that effectively served Chinese interests by increasing a sense of delegitimization of post 1945 globalization. Second, the COVID pandemic distracted the West, especially the United States, already weakened because of the stubborn determination by its elites to destroy themselves in their civil war for control of the instruments and concepts of power there.
The reporting from the South China Morning Post follows below.
PostScript on the Campaign to "punish evil and uphold justice"):
(1) "Hong Kong’s new police unit enforcing the national security law arrested four student members of a pro-independence group on Wednesday after it announced its mission to build the city into a republic. The arrests of the suspects, aged 16 to 21, in Yuen Long, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun marked the first such crackdown on anti-government activists not at the scene of street protests." (Four members of Hong Kong pro-independence group arrested by police officers from national security unit)(3) "Police in Hong Kong are seeking the arrest of six pro-democracy activists living in exile in Western countries, including the UK, media reports say. . . . The UK and Australia are among countries that have suspended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong in recent weeks. Germany did so on Friday - one of those reported to be on the new "wanted list" has received asylum there. Who are the 'wanted'? Chinese state TV network CCTV said six people were wanted on suspicion of inciting secession or colluding with foreign forces - both crimes can be punished with up to life in prison under the new security law." (Hong Kong 'seeking arrest' of fleeing activists (31 July 2020)).
(2) "Randy Shek, a member of the bar council of the Bar Association, said on Thursday the absence of a definition for a seditious act in the legislation imposed on Hong Kong a month ago left enforcement of the law ripe for misuse. . . . Pleading for the law to be used only as a last resort, Professor Fu Hualing, law dean of the University of Hong Kong, said: “Arresting teenagers for setting up a Facebook group does not help with protecting China’s national security. Nor can it generate confidence in the law.” (National security law: lawyers challenge arrests of former Studentlocalism members for Facebook post supporting independence).
University of Hong Kong governing council sacks legal scholar Benny Tai over convictions for Occupy protests
Tai, an associate professor, learns fate after HKU council holds meeting on matter
He was sentenced to 16 months in prison last April for two public nuisance offences related to 2014 civil disobedience movement
Chan Ho-him Published
The University of Hong Kong’s governing council sacked legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting on Tuesday over his criminal convictions for the Occupy protest movement he co-founded in 2014.
Tai, an associate professor of law and outspoken opposition activist, 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 although his actions amounted to misconduct.
Responding to his dismissal, Tai said on Tuesday that academic institutions in Hong Kong “cannot protect their members from internal and outside interferences”, adding that the university council’s decision “marked the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong”.
Hours after the decision, Beijing’s liaison office in the city said in a statement it supported the dismissal as an act that punished “evil” and upheld justice.
“Tai has used the sacred position of an educational institution to spread fallacies and confuse right from wrong, as well as promote illegal [activities] which had misled and poisoned a group of young people,” a spokesman said.
The office added Tai had “organised, planned, carried out, incited and instigated events including Occupy Central and the recent opposition camp’s primary elections earlier this month, and that his actions “increased conflict in society and poisoned Hong Kong’s political atmosphere”.
Three sources told the Post that 18 council members supported the decision to dismiss Tai while two were against it. President Zhang Xiang did not cast a vote, while two other members were either absent or had withdrawn from the talks because of conflict of interests.
The university’s council – headed by Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, a member of the city leader’s cabinet – comprises 23 members. A majority in the group are from outside the university, including pro-establishment lawmaker Abraham Shek and Sino Land deputy chairman Daryl Ng Win-kong.
Tai, 56, was sentenced to 16 months in prison in April last year for two public nuisance offences related to the 2014 civil disobedience movement for greater democracy, which brought parts of the city to a standstill for 79 days. He has been out on bail since last August, pending an appeal.
An inquiry committee was initiated last year at the discretion of president Zhang Xiang, and it submitted a report by May to the senate. The senate, comprising mainly academics, agreed in early July with the finding that Tai was guilty of “misconduct” but that his actions did not amount to grounds for dismissal.
If Tai wishes to lodge an appeal over his dismissal, he would have to do so through HKU’s chancellor – a role held by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor at all of the city’s eight publicly funded universities – or by judicial review.
Tai was not present at Tuesday’s meeting but a written submission from him was handed to the council, according to a source present at the session. The academic had argued that the Occupy protests were peaceful, adding that as the university’s senate had already made a recommendation, he did not see any reasons the council would decide against that suggestion.
The source added that council members, during the discussion which lasted more than an hour, had cast votes in two rounds. The first round involved a majority of participants supporting the handling of Tai’s case now instead of waiting until his appeal process was completed, while in the second round, 18 members voted to dismiss Tai from his tenured position.
The source added that council chairman Arthur Li had promised that if Tai’s appeal, which would be heard next year, succeeded, the council would revisit his dismissal.
A day before, Baptist University lecturer and lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, who was also convicted for taking part in the Occupy protests and who stood trial along with Tai, was told his contract would not be renewed after expiry by the end of August.
Tai, in a response on his social media page, said his dismissal reflected that academic staff in Hong Kong were no longer protected by their institutions.
“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,” he wrote.
“It marks the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong ... Academic institutions in Hong Kong cannot protect their members from internal and outside interferences.”
He added he would continue his research and teaching “on the rule of law in another capacity”.
HKU alumni concern group deputy convenor Mak Tung-wing slammed the council’s decision as “violating procedural justice”, as Tai’s case was still pending an appeal.
HKU’s student union also said it would organise a petition to collect signatures to oppose the council’s decision and press for a review.
In a written statement without naming Tai, an HKU spokeswoman said a personnel issue concerning a teaching staff member had been resolved, and he had been given “full opportunity to present the facts, submit written statements and relevant documents, and present the case in writing and in person” during the inquiry process.
The spokeswoman stressed that the decision came following “stringent and impartial due process” as well as “careful deliberations and considerations”.
“We hope members of the public understand that this is an internal personnel matter of the university and that the autonomy of the institution should be respected,” she added.