Students in Hong Kong and the UK have urged the University of Cambridge’s Wolfson College to reevaluate a decision made last year that granted Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam an honorary fellowship.

“Lam has on sundry occasions abused her position, as chief secretary until 2017 and chief executive since 2017, to threaten the democracy, freedom of academic expression, and of speech, of Hong Kong and its people,” the groups said in an open letter to Wolfson College President Jane Clarke this week.

Photo: Flickr/ Mihnea Maftei

“Her [conduct amounts] to transgressions of the much-cherished principles of the College and of the University, namely, the pursuit of democracy, freedom of academic expression, and of speech.”

Three student groups in the UK, including the Current Affairs Discussion Group at Cambridge, Democracy for Hong Kong, and The Bridgian, as well as the University of Hong Kong Students’ Union, urged Clarke to reconsider the decision.

The groups accused Lam’s administration of suppressing freedom of academic expression and of speech. During her term, pro-democracy scholars have been removed from posts or obstructed from promotions, including professors Chin Wan-kan, Johannes Chan, Benny Tai, and Cheng Chung-tai, they said.

‘Improper suppression’

They also mentioned an incident in April this year in which Carrie Lam publically condemned legal scholar Tai for speaking at a forum in Taiwan about the future possibility of Hong Kong independence.

Carrie Lam. File photo:

[This conduct is] tantamount to improper suppression of freedom of academic expression and of speech by means of administrative power,” the groups said.

The groups listed nine candidates who were barred by the government from running in elections, as well as six lawmakers who were disqualified by the courts after the government filed legal challenges against them.

They cited a case whereby the government publicly condemned a talk hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong featuring pro-independence advocate Andy Chan, and the subsequent expulsion of Victor Mallet, a Financial Times journalist and FCC’s vice president at the time, who moderated the talk.

The groups said Lam’s actions were “self-evidently threatening the democracy and freedom of speech of Hong Kong.”

“The incidents aforementioned are simply a tip of an iceberg. We believe that Wolfson College, Cambridge does not, and indeed, should not, endorse such conducts. Conferring honorary fellowship upon Lam was a misstep to be corrected… The College’s reputation and principles must be guarded. Wolfsonians shall be ashamed for being associated with such a fellow,” they said.

HKFP has approached Wolfson College for comment.


Kris Cheng

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.