SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 17, 2020

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Hong Kong Baptist University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | Hong Kong 

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 17, 2020, Shiu Ka-chun, a pro-democracy legislator and lecturer in social work at the Baptist University of Hong Kong (HKBU) was relieved of his teaching duties, after the institution launched disciplinary procedures against him over his conviction last April for his role in the 2014 Occupy Movement.

Shiu told the press that he was summoned to an urgent meeting with the manager of the personnel office, the Department Head of Social Work and the Dean of the Faculty of Social Science on the afternoon of January 17, where they handed him a letter formally informing him that he would not be resuming his teaching duties until an internal inquiry panel concluded its investigation.

Shiu was a key figure in the pro-democracy Occupy Movement of 2014. He was found guilty of incitement to commit public nuisance and incitement to incite public nuisance, and was released in October after serving five months of a prison sentence.

He is currently in the process of appealing his conviction.

In an open letter posted on Facebook, Shiu stated that he has been awarded the “excellent” grade in the teaching evolution over the past years, indicating that his recent suspension of teaching duties is unrelated to his performance.

HKBU has issued a statement saying that it had been decided Shiu was “not suitable for carrying out his duties, while he was neither dismissed nor suspended.”

Scholars at Risk is concerned about retaliation against a scholar in apparent connection to his nonviolent exercise of expression and assembly – conduct which is explicitly protected under international human rights instruments, including the University Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally. Universities have a responsibility to refrain from wrongful disciplinary action in retaliation for nonviolent expression.