HK protests: legal scholar convicted over role in rallies keeps university job, for now

13-Jul-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A legal scholar found guilty of creating a public nuisance during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations has cleared the first steps of a review by his university into whether he should be fired, the Post has learned.

But Benny Tai Yiu-ting could still be sacked from his tenured job as an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) during the final round of the inquiry.

Tai, 55, was sentenced to 16 months’ jail in April last year after being convicted of two public nuisance charges related to the Occupy Central protests in 2014. The civil disobedience movement brought several parts of the city to a standstill for 79 straight days as demonstrators pushed for greater political reform. Tai was granted bail in August 2019, pending an appeal.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

According to the HKU’s ordinance and procedures, president and vice-chancellor Zhang Xiang has the discretion to initiate the formation of an inquiry committee to look into whether there is a “good cause” for firing an employee.

Dismissal on a good cause would mean the accused employee had suffered from an “inability to perform efficiently the duties of the office”, neglect of duty or there had been “misconduct in an official or a private capacity”.

The university established a committee last year to review his employment due to his criminal conviction, and its report was submitted by May to the senate, which is made up mostly of academic staff. The senate agreed with the finding that Tai committed “misconduct” but his actions did not amount to grounds for dismissal, a member of the panel said.

“We were told that Tai has never introduced his personal political beliefs into his classes,” the source told the Post. “He was only involved in Occupy in his individual capacity.”

The member added: “Most members agreed that he can still carry out the duty of a university teacher after a long debate.”

The matter now heads to the governing council, which is expected to meet late this month.

When contacted by the Post, Tai declined to comment on the case, noting he had not received any formal information. “I better wait for the official notice,” he said.

The council had final say over whether Tai kept his job and could still reject the senate’s conclusion, according to Lei Tsz-shing, one of its student representatives.

“Of course, I hope the council could respect the senate’s decision as it is a matter of procedural justice,” Lei said.

HKU declined to comment on Tai’s case citing privacy issues and the need to “ensure the integrity of the process”.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Comments are closed.