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Global Student Stories: Calls to protect academic freedom in Hong Kong

A report for NGO Hong Kong Watch has found that universities in the area are increasingly restricting freedom of expression, removing outspoken professors and facing government-appointed administrators.

The report, written by Australia’s Macquarie University professor Kevin Carrico, calls for independent monitoring groups to be set up and for “universities around the world should provide shelter for academics pressured out of their positions.”

It adds that the role of the territory’s chief executive as head of universities should be abolished in favour of returning this authority to the individual institutions. This role has existed since the British colonial period..

While Chinese academics faces significant controls, in Hong Kong the openness of academic discussion and research has been supported by the “one country, two systems” framework established after Hong Kong’s integration into the People’s Republic of China in 1997.

Universities around the world should provide shelter for academics pressured out of their positions

Furthermore, the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Order legally protects the academic freedom in Hong Kong’s universities.

According the the report, the years since the 2014 Occupy protests, or Umbrella Revolution, have seen further restrictions on certain freedoms; students at several Hong Kong universities were reprimanded for displaying pro-independence banners, while some controversial academics were removed from their posts through extra-legal campaigns.

The report adds that, “by placing arbitrary and clearly political limits on the exercise of speech rights, Hong Kong’s government and universities are undermining Hong Kong’s longstanding rule of law and opening the door for ever greater restrictions on speech.”

Last week, Hong Kong’s court sentenced student activist Joshua Wong to a second jail term of three months for participating in the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

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