On August 27, 2018, it was reported that Peking University (PKU) had barred two Hong Kong human rights lawyers from teaching a common law course at the university.
The common law course has been offered annually at PKU since 2011, each year taught by different instructors selected by the Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA). Human rights lawyer Hectar Pun and Cheung Yiu-leung, vice-chairman of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, were barred from teaching the course and replaced, allegedly only two weeks prior to traveling to Beijing to teach the course. Pun and Cheung had taught the course for several years.
PKU officials have not provided an explanation for barring the instructors. According to HKBA chairman Philip Dykes, PKU did not object to the content of the course, only the instructors. Cheung was allegedly told by a PKU professor who coordinated the course that mainland officials pressured PKU to bar the two lawyers.
On August 27, when news of the PKU’s decision broke, HKBA announced that it had indefinitely suspend its offering of the common law course at PKU. HKBA stated that it would resume the course only once PKU officials explained why they barred the instructors and agree to refrain from similar actions. As of this report, HKBA continues to suspend the course offering.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about apparently arbitrary and retaliatory measures to restrict academic activity. State and university authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting the peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom. Such retaliatory measures intended to restrict such activity harms academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.