TWO leading academics yesterday asked a High Court judge to declare that the Hong Kong University had unfairly criticised them following an investigation into their allegations of plagiarism. Dr Linda Koo Chih-ling and Professor John Ho Hung-chiu won damages in a legal battle in 1992 over allegations that their work had been stolen by a colleague. But the university inquiry which followed contradicted the High Court ruling and cleared Dr Lam Tai-hing of plagiarism. Philip Dykes, for Dr Koo and Professor Ho, said the university also took the opportunity to level criticism unfairly at the two academics in a way which damaged their reputation. 'The contention of the applicants is that in carrying out the inquiry into the conduct of Dr Lam the university owed to them both a duty of fairness. That duty was not discharged,' he added. A report setting out the findings of the inquiry was the subject of wide publicity. This, said Mr Dykes, had done great harm to the reputations of Dr Koo and Professor Ho both as individuals and as highly esteemed academics. The report accused them of attempting to frustrate and mislead the inquiry, the court heard. It also criticised them for claiming their work was original and accusing Dr Lam of obtaining it surreptitiously, said Mr Dykes. He said Dr Koo and Professor Ho had not been given the opportunity to respond to these criticisms before the report was made public. The comments concerning the two academics should have had no place in the report which was supposed to be concerned only with the conduct of Dr Lam, the judge was told. Mr Dykes also complained that the manner in which the inquiry was conducted had been unfair to them. They had been told they could not be legally represented and would not be allowed to see the submissions made by Dr Lam before appearing to give evidence, Mr Dykes added. As a result of this the two academics decided not to give evidence in person. Instead, they tendered written submissions. The inquiry report, released in January, cleared Dr Lam. This was in contrast to the findings of Mr Justice Keith who awarded damages to Dr Koo and Professor Ho in 1992. He found that Dr Lam had obtained his colleagues' questionnaire on Hong Kong women's lung cancer 'surreptitiously' in the early 1980s. Dr Lam lost his appeal. Dr Koo is a lecturer in the university's Department of Community Medicine and Professor Ho an honorary clinical professor at the Department of Radiation Oncology. The judicial review, before Mr Justice Findlay, will continue on Monday.