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International scholars send an open letter to Hong Kong University, amid mounting protests

On 12 August 2019, more than 800 legal scholars internationally published an open letter to the Hong Kong University’s (HKU) Vice-chancellor Xiang Zhang, cautioning against “politically motivated dismissal or other disciplinary measures” against Benny Tai Yiu-Ting (???), an associate professor at HKU Faculty of Law and co-founder of Occupy Central, a.k.a. Umbrella Movement.

Benny Tai was sentenced to 16 months in jail in April this year on charges of causing a public nuisance in the 2014 protests and was released on 15 August with bail conditions and pending an appeal hearing scheduled for February 2020. It is reported that Pro-Beijing factions in Hong Kong have called for Tai to be stripped of his university post for his role in the Occupy Central protests. In the meantime, in June 2019, HKU already set up a special disciplinary panel to investigate Tai’s behaviour and involvement in the 2014 protests, even though Tai has not been found guilty yet. The academic community is thus questioning the disciplinary process at HKU and is calling for the protection of the University's autonomy and of fundamental values, such as academic freedom and freedom of expression.

Interviewed by University World News, Eva Pils, professor of law at King’s College London, described it as an “important case” in light of the current anti-government protests - in which Tai has not been involved so far - in terms of self-censorship and academic values.