The University of Hong Kong’s dean of law Michael Hor will be stepping down after his term ends in June 2019, but will remain a professor at the faculty.

According to an email vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson sent out to staff members at the university, the school will set up a search committee to look for a new dean. It will be chaired by Mathieson and, following his departure from the school, the new head of the university.

Photo: HKU legal scholarship blog.

Hor, previously a professor at the National University of Singapore, succeeded law professor Johannes Chan in July 2014. He took up deanship on July 1, 2014 for a term of five years.

Previously, Hor was asked how he would handle the controversy surrounding Benny Tai – a law professor at the school and the co-founder of the 2014 Occupy movement. He said that it was important to have different opinions in the faculty.

Hor said that if Tai ran into trouble, the school would provide support and Tai would not be unreasonably removed from his teaching position. Hor added that as long as Tai carried out his duties, he would not interfere with the latter’s freedom of expression.

Tai was previously investigated by the school over anonymous donations that he had received in relation to the Occupy protests. He was charged with public nuisance over his role in the protests and if convicted, he will face internal disciplinary proceedings at the school.

Reverend Chu Yiu-ming and Benny Tai. Photo: In-Media.

Hor also defended the faculty after a University Grants Committee report leaked by pro-Beijing paper Wenweipo in 2015 stated that the law school performed poorly in its research. In response to criticism from the pro-Beijing camp, Hor said that the faculty was carrying out its duty to Hong Kong society and to the legal profession, and if this affected its research it had no regrets.

William Cheung Sing-wai, chairman of the university’s Academic Staff Association, told Apple Daily that whatever Hor’s reasons for not taking a second term, the announcement was worrying as it could provide a chance for the pro-establishment forces to influence the law faculty with an “obedient” new dean.

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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.