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Benny Tai's firing to help put campuses 'back on track'

By Gang Wen | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-07-30 21:46

The Chinese national flags and flags of the Hong Kong SAR flutter in Hong Kong. [Photo/Xinhua]

HONG KONG -- The University of Hong Kong's dismissal of Benny Tai Yiu-ting — one of the co-founders of the 2014 "Occupy Central" movement — will help restore pragmatic and rational discussions on campuses and prevent radicalism, representatives of a wide sector of the community said on Wednesday.

Tai, a former associate law professor at the university, was fired by the institution's governing council on Tuesday for his criminal convictions related to the "Occupy" campaign. He was sentenced to 16 months in jail for two offenses related to the illegal movement and was later granted bail pending appeal.

The Hong Kong Higher Education Convergence — one of the city's largest educational groups — applauded the university's decision as being "in line with public interests".

It said in a statement that in addition to restoring HKU's reputation, it could help build a more rational atmosphere for higher education, and better protect students from radical political advocacies.

The group said Tai had played a pivotal role leading to the city's current political impasse and, given his track record, he's unqualified to take up any educational role.

Tai, 56, has masterminded several political campaigns to swing the vote in the legislative and district council elections, and played a key role in last year's social unrest by promoting "achieving justice by breaking the law".

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, he co-organized the opposition camp's "primary" Legislative Council election, to enable the bloc to secure a majority in the legislature and block government proposals.

The chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, Wong Kam-leung, described HKU's decision as reasonable, saying Tai's political advocacies, such as "achieving justice by breaking the law", have encouraged radicals to promote Hong Kong independence.

Wong said he hopes Tai's dismissal will help the public realize the falsehood of his political beliefs.

Lawrence Pang Wang-kee — an HKU alumnus and former member of the Central Policy Unit, an advisory body of the SAR government — said there were sufficient justifications in terms of moral, university management and legal aspects to relieve Tai of his post.

Stanley Ng Chau-pei, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said Tai was involved in many unlawful acts to destabilize the city that had nothing to do with academics over the past few years. He urged Hong Kong people not to defend the activist under the pretext of academic freedom.

Lawyer Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, the country's top political advisory body, said Tai's dismissal was in strict accordance with procedures.

He said some HKU students who have criticized the decision have ignored Tai's criminal acts, as well as the university's rules. Wong hopes other educational institutions will follow HKU's example in dealing with unqualified teachers.

Opposition lawmaker Bottle Shiu Ka-chun, who was also convicted for his role in the "Occupy" campaign, was told by Hong Kong Baptist University on Monday that his lecturer's contract will not be renewed when it expires next month.

In a social-media post on Wednesday, Tai said he would appeal the HKU Council's decision to Chief Executive and HKU Chancellor Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

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