A high-profile academic and co-founder of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement has left the city to teach for a year as a visiting professor at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

Chan Kin-man, who arrived in Taiwan on Monday afternoon, had accepted an invitation from the university’s sociology department, Faculty Chair Hermes Huang said in a social media post.

Chan Kin-man. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Chan will teach two modules at the university in Taipei – one on social movements, and another on modern China, the scholar told Commercial Radio on Tuesday, adding that he planned to return to the city in 12 months time.

When asked if he was concerned that the contents of the modules might violate the Beijing-imposed national security law, Chan said that he was worried and that the law would create some limitations to the subjects due to the fact that he plans to return to Hong Kong.

“The boundaries of this national security law are so blurry, who can say for sure whether someone has crossed the line?” said Chan. “I don’t really talk about my personal political views in class, as a sociology professor, I’m analytical…”

Writing retreat

Aside from teaching, Chan said that he would like to take time in a retreat-like environment to write a book about the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.

“There are some books that I can’t continue writing in Hong Kong, I’m currently writing a book reflecting on the past five years, from the beginning of Occupy Central, I’m reflecting on the movement and Hong Kong’s situation,” said Chan. “I really need a quiet environment to focus on writing…this is a historical mission.”

2014 Umbrella Movement. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Chan was one of the founders of “Occupy Central,” a protest movement which morphed into the 2014 Umbrella Movement, a 79-day long pro-democracy civil disobedience campaign.

Thousands occupied roads around the legislature and in two other key districts following a student sit-in. Leading figures of the largely peaceful movement were jailed in the years following the police clearance of protesters.

Chan was jailed for 16 months for conspiring to commit public nuisance and inciting others to cause a public nuisance. He was released in March last year.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.