City University is looking into allegations that pro-democracy scholar Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek took the credit for others' work in articles published in academic journals more than a decade ago.
This follows a complaint from a former research assistant of Cheng, who is chair professor of political science at the university and convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy.
Cheng Man-lung, who worked for Professor Cheng between September 2002 and January 2003, alleges that his former boss took lead-author credit on three articles published in 2003 and 2004 when it should have been given to his collaborators.
One of the co-authors told the South China Morning Post that the case was too long ago to be remembered. The others could not be reached for comment.
Cheng Man-lung insisted his complaint was not politically motivated, although he conceded he had a personal dispute with the professor in 2002.
"I understand the timing of my complaint is sensitive. But I don't care about politics," said Cheng, now a research assistant to University of Hong Kong law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee.
City University said in a statement that it had received the complaint and that it was being handled in accordance with established procedures.
Professor Cheng could not be reached for comment.
In one of the articles in question, Professor Cheng was listed as lead author in a joint project with Professor Zheng Peiyu of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou on the role of foreign investment in Guangdong's economic development.
Zheng, 78, said she could not remember what happened with Professor Cheng 12 years ago except that she did write a lot about foreign investment in Guangdong.
Professor Cheng was also listed as lead author in a 2004 joint article with Professor Zhang Mujin of Tsinghua University on the ecology in China's western provinces.
He was also listed as lead author on a piece on Buddhism, published in 2003 with his then assistant Lau Kin, in which Cheng Man-lung said he believed Lau was the actual writer.
Cheng said he understood Professor Cheng had little input in the projects and should not have been credited as first writer.
University of Hong Kong sociology professor Lui Tai-lok said the sequence of authors in research articles was usually only a concern among the authors. "It usually does not involve academic honesty," he said.
Cheng Man-lung said he did not report the cases earlier because he did not feel the university would deal fairly with his complaints.
In 1995, Professor Cheng lost his post as City University dean of Humanities and Social Sciences after he admitted he had copied material from a former teacher's book for use in a textbook he wrote in 1987 and from two former colleagues at Chinese University for use in a paper in 1984 without the appropriate acknowledgement.
City University staff union chairman John Tse Wing-ling said that upon receiving complaints, the university would look into the evidence and decide whether to form a disciplinary committee to investigate.