Over 250 scholars have signed a petition expressing “strong indignation” at pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho’s calls to remove Occupy leader Benny Tai from his teaching position at the University of Hong Kong. The petition says that Ho’s move was “unfair and biased.”

The petition came after Ho submitted a petition of more than 80,000 signatures urging the University of Hong Kong to investigate Tai, threatening public rallies and legal action should the school fail to act. Ho previously said it was contradictory for Tai to advocate for the spirit of civil disobedience while teaching students about defending the rule of law.

The initiators of the scholars’ petition said that academic freedom and freedom of speech are the cornerstones of a healthy society. They said that Ho’s demands to dismiss Tai may create enormous pressure for Tai and other scholars whose views differ from those in power, causing them to be unable to express their views without fear.

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu
Junius Ho Kwan-yiu. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

No one should suffer from unreasonable suppression for holding differing views, the group said, adding that Ho’s speech and actions “are detrimental to the development of Hong Kong as a civilized society.”

They also said that Ho failed to give any mention to the underlying principles of civil disobedience, and only focused on the element of “obeying the law” while ignoring the importance of achieving justice by using the law.

In response to Ho’s threats of legal action and protests, the group said: “We believe that Councillor Ho’s words and deeds may obstruct the efforts at reform of conscientious scholars.”

benny tai
Benny Tai. Photo: RTHK, via Facebook.

The group also questioned Ho’s suitability to sit on the governing council of a university. Ho is currently a member of Lingnan University’s council.

The initiators of the petition include education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Employees General Union, the HKU Alumni Concern Group, Scholars Alliance for Academic Freedom, and a number of lecturers and professors in Hong Kong’s tertiary education institutions.

As of Monday afternoon, the petition was signed by over 250 scholars from institutions in Hong Kong and overseas.

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.