HKFP Occupy banner one year on

Occupy Central co-founder and University of Hong Kong (HKU) law professor Benny Tai has said that he will not apply for judicial review against the University’s governing council over its decision to punish him for undeclared donations made to the pro-democracy protest group.

In an open letter to HKU Council Chairman Edward Leong Che-hung, Tai called the Council’s decision to impose a disciplinary penalty on him “illegal, irrational and procedurally improper,” citing the traditional grounds for a judicial review action.

benny tai
Benny Tai at the Occupy Central Black Cloth March in March, 2014. Photo: HKFP.

Tai said that the decision was illegal because the Council had no legal authority under the University of Hong Kong Ordinance to make it, and that there were legal and factual errors in the decision-making process such as the failure to specify which rule or guideline Tai was accused of breaching.

Tai further said that the decision was irrational since the Council taking into account “irrelevant factors” such as his involvement in the pro-democracy Occupy protests.

“There is no rational connection between the imposed penalty and my actions. I introduced the donations to the University in my capacity as an alumnus; however, I am now being punished for my involvement as a teacher at the University,” Tai said.

hku logo
The logo of HKU. Photo: StandNews.

Tai further said that the Council’s decision was biased and unfair and that no adequate explanation was provided for the penalty. Earlier in the letter, Tai also said that the Council had been “infiltrated” and that its decisions were “politically tainted.”

“However, out of my love for the University of Hong Kong I am not prepared to apply for judicial review against the Council’s decisions with regards to myself… An application for judicial review will inflict more harm to the University and that is the last thing I want to see in my life,” Tai said.

In the final paragraph, Tai asked the Council not to do anything that would hurt the university further, and pleaded for the Council to respect the academic freedom of the University and uphold its vision and mission.

The decision to take disciplinary action against Tai was made in June 2015, when the majority of Council members voted in favour of an investigation into Tai’s failure to notify the university of the HK$1.45 million in anonymous donations he had received for the Occupy movement.

Johannes Chan
Johannes Chan. File

In September, Tai said that he did not violate any regulations and that it was clear there were political motives behind the row. Later that month, the Council rejected the appointment of Tai’s former supervisor Johannes Chan to the pro-vice-chancellorship.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.