August 12, 2019
Hundreds of international academics have signed an open letter in support of a jailed Hong Kong law professor being held in solitary confinement, urging his university not to dismiss him from his job.
Benny Tai Yiu-ting, one of nine founders of the 2014 Umbrella movement, was sentenced to 16 months in prison in April over public nuisance charges related to his role in the mass protests that lasted for 79 days.
Prof Tai’s appeal is scheduled for August 15, but pro-Beijing groups are calling on the University of Hong Kong to remove him from his position as an associate professor of law. More than 300 academics have signed the letter in support of Prof Tai, released today.
“Professor Tai has expressed his willingness to accept criminal punishment in service of his convictions, he should not be additionally published by losing his academic position,” they say in the letter to Xiang Zhang, president of the University of Hong Kong.
Terry C Halliday, a research professor at the American Bar Foundation, warned that a dismissal would also be a “disaster” for the university’s global reputation.
The university is expected to schedule a disciplinary hearing after Prof Tai’s appeal, having said in April it would follow up on the court’s decision in accordance with its internal procedure.
Another jailed founder of the 2014 movement, Chan Kin-Man was an associate professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, but retired at the end of 2018 before he was tried. He is also serving a 16-month sentence.
Prof Tai was sent to solitary confinement after joining the city-wide strike by refusing to work in the prison last Monday.