Occupy Central

Professor quits over Occupy Central

Organiser of civil disobedience campaign steps down from Chinese University's centre for China studies to avoid harming its reputation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 8:40am

An Occupy Central organiser has stepped down from his position as director of Chinese University's renowned centre for China studies to avoid his involvement in the civil disobedience movement having an impact on the centre's operations.

Chinese University sociology professor Chan Kin-man resigned from the University Service Centre for China Studies (USC) last Wednesday.

He is also planning to reduce his involvement in a civic society studies centre he founded at the university in 2008.

The China studies centre has been facilitating the research work of China scholars worldwide for half a century and enjoys equal recognition with America's Harvard University as a resource centre for the subject.

Chan has been the centre's director since April last year. Chinese University was planning to renew his tenure earlier this year but he turned down the offer.

Chan said he had been preparing to step down since joining the planning for Occupy Central because Beijing's attacks on the civil disobedience movement could potentially have an impact on the centre.

"It is a pure academic institute," Chan said. "I don't want to harm this reputed centre for being too political as the centre's director."

Last month, Chan was invited by mainland media organisations to give a speech at a forum on China's charity policy, but he was informed "not to go" at the last minute.

He is also considering phasing out his involvement in Chinese University's Centre for Civil Society Studies, which he set up five years ago and has since directed.

In June, a summer camp, Co-China, which was co-organised by the civil society centre, was cancelled after pressure from mainland authorities, Chan said.

"I am still not sure whether it was my advocation of Occupy Central or the nature of the camp that drew the suppression, but I know I'm not suitable for China studies anymore," he said.

The Centre for Civil Society Studies aims to promote knowledge of civil society issues among mainlanders through educational and academic projects. "NGO heads, officials and media from China came and shared Hong Kong's experiences. It is a successful project," Chan said.

"I hadn't thought of phasing it out so early," said Chan, who used to make several business trips to the mainland every month for speeches and networking.

"I have good relationships with both mainland officials and civil organisations. I thought I could do more, but it would be really tough for the centre if it were inconvenient for its director to speak in the mainland."

Having spent more than 17 years on China research, Chan is thus preparing for a shift in focus this year.

"It was a really tough situation to give up your research focus, but Hong Kong, after all, is my home," he said.