Peking University law professor Jiang Shigong has denied that his school barred Hong Kong Bar Association Chairman Philip Dykes from attending the closing sessions of a legal course offered by the professional body.

Over the past eight years, the association has offered a course on common law to students at the Beijing-based school.

But Dykes said in a letter to the association’s members on Monday that he and two other barristers were told not to visit the school, though the university did not give a reason. He said the Bar Council – the association’s governing body – found the rejections to be “unacceptable,” and thus decided that the common law course should be suspended indefinitely.

bar association peking u
The common law course at Peking University. Photo: HKBA.

Jiang, who is involved in planning the legal courses, told RTHK that the school decided not to hold a graduation ceremony this year, but it did not reject the barristers’ visit to Beijing.

He said he believed that Dykes had misunderstood, as the school sent him an invitation letter saying he was welcome to visit, but there was no need to attend the graduation ceremony.

“There is no question of us rejecting him,” he said. “He may have misunderstood, or he has some other ideas – this is the university’s academic cooperation, it is not related to political stances.”

He expressed surprise and regret over the association’s decision to suspend the courses, saying that the move was made without consulting the university. He added that the future of the programme depended on the Bar Association’s attitude.

The common law course aims to provide mainland students with an opportunity to learn about the spirit of the rule of law and the Hong Kong legal system.

peking university
Peking University. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Dykes said an official from the school called and said the school objected to two members teaching the 2018 course.

He also said a letter of invitation for his visa application was sent to the Bar Secretariat, “but, within a day or two, a phone call from the university gave the message that I must not come.”

Legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok said he believed Dykes’ political views were unrelated to the matter. He said Peking University had been expressing views on the course content over the past couple years, including requesting revisions and that certain syllabus elements be removed.

He said the school also objected to several barristers teaching the course, but added that he believed the choice was unrelated to the quality of their teaching.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.