A member of the governing Council of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University has posted a set of notes on the university’s “democracy wall” criticising a localist academic at the school. In response, the academic also posted on the wall saying the member’s actions have harmed freedoms at the school.

A set of of four A3 posters from Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung, a well-known supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, appeared on the public comments board on Tuesday.

Writing in the capacity of a Council member and an alumni, Lau listed 26 points criticising Cheng Chung-tai, a teaching fellow and a member of localist group Civic Passion. Lau said Cheng supported and organised violent protests, advocated for Hong Kong independence and said that he “must protect PolyU’s name… and students from the negative influence brought by such radical and violent speeches and actions”.

Kaizer Lau (left) and Cheng Chung-tai (right).
Kaizer Lau (left) and Cheng Chung-tai (right). Photo: Stand News.

‘Suppression’ of academic freedom

Lau was previously accused of exerting pressure on fellow members of the PolyU Council for the non-renewal of the employment contract of Cheng. The contents of Council meetings are confidential.

Following that, the PolyU student union issued an open letter to all members of the Council, requesting an investigation into Lau’s actions, saying academic freedom and freedom of speech must not be suppressed. Thus, Lau posted the set of papers on the board as a rebuttal to the student union.

‘Personal rights’

The Council chairman and PolyU’s vice-chancellor also issued a response to the letter on Tuesday, saying that the school will act according to existing regulations on the appointments of teaching staff.

“Regarding teaching staff speeches or political participation in personal capacity outside work, the school respects their personal rights, but will pay attention if they have broken the law or staff regulations when joining such events,” the response said.

It also said it hoped students understand that Council members have freedom to express opinions.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Photo: PolyU.

Damage to university

In response, Cheng also posted a set of papers on the board on Wednesday, saying that he believed school staff followed procedures in handling personnel appointments and that academic freedom and freedom of speech were protected.

“However, after the school officially replied to the student union, Mr. Lau posted on the board again in the capacity of a Council member, to pressure the school based on his own political stance,” Cheng said. “This act has damaged institutional autonomy, showed contempt for the university’s system, and further harmed academic freedom and freedom of speech,” he added.

Cheng said that he would be willing to publicly debate political ideals with Lau.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.