Academics in Hong Kong suffer curbs on their freedoms

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A climate of fear has enveloped the city’s campuses | China

The pretext for the raid was a resolution issued by the union expressing gratitude for the “sacrifice” of a man who had stabbed a police officer before killing himself. The government said the statement was “no different from supporting and encouraging terrorism”. The union apologised and its leaders resigned. But the authorities did not let the matter rest: police seized files from the union building and banned some of the former leaders from leaving the territory.

To avoid arrest, many students now stay clear of campus politics. During the just-completed academic year, most universities in Hong Kong did not hold student-union elections because of a dearth of candidates. Campus authorities are also treating the unions warily. In February the Chinese University of Hong Kong severed ties with its union because of concerns that the manifestos of some candidates for posts in the student body may have breached the vaguely worded national-security bill.

University administrators are also responsible for Hong Kong’s plummeting ratings. Many reports tell of outspoken academics being denied tenure, refused promotion or unable to get their contracts renewed. “They never say it is political,” says Ip Iam-Chong, who taught at Lingnan University for 18 years before its management rejected his application for tenure in 2020, despite support from his department, and refused to renew his contract, which expires in August.

Many academics were disheartened last year when five university presidents signed a letter expressing support for academic freedom but saying they could “understand” the need for a national-security law . “It is upsetting to be part of an institution proactively participating in stifling dissent,” laments one academic, referring to the repressive climate at her university. She says she and many colleagues are looking for jobs in other countries.


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No absolute freedom in any country. Just look at how US cracks down on protesters taking advantage of freedom to storm Capital Hill. Freedom does'nt mean people are free to break the law and commit treason and subversion. National interests are always above personal freedom.

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