On July 27, 2020, Hong Kong Baptist University informed lecturer Shiu Ka-chun that his teaching contract would not be renewed, apparently in retaliation for his peaceful activism.
Shiu was convicted on April 9, 2019, for his role in the 2014 pro-democracy protests. He was found guilty of two public nuisance charges but was released in October after having served six months of his eight month sentence.
On January 17, 2020, HKBU relieved Shiu of his teaching responsibilities while the university carried out an investigation, ostensibly into his role in the pro-democracy protests (see report). HKBU 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.” Shiu reportedly continued to engage in research despite the disciplinary measure.
On July 27, HKBU reportedly sent Shiu an email stating that his teaching contract would not be renewed after expiring on August 30, according to the South China Morning Post. The university reportedly did not inform Shiu of the basis for the decision. Shiu, who taught at the university for eleven years, claimed that HKBU was repeatedly “told by people representing Beijing’s interests that he was too high profile and political, and that he shouldn’t continue as deputy director of the HKBU social work research center,” according to a report by Radio Free Asia.
Shiu expressed dissatisfaction with the university’s handling of his situation, commenting that it had sided with political authorities that seek to “suppress dissident views.” Shiu reportedly plans to appeal the university’s decision.
The decision to deny Shiu’s contract renewal occurred weeks after China’s Central Government imposed on Hong Kong a controversial National Security Law. The Law has been criticized for encroaching on Hong Kong’s political autonomy and undermining Hong Kongers’ rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly, among others.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by the non-renewal of a scholar’s contract in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Hong Kong is a party. University authorities should refrain from retaliating nonviolent expressive activity or associations. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such disciplinary measures aimed at restricting or retaliating against expressive activity undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.