Judges who ruled Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun did not breach academic freedom when she sought to muffle government critics at the Hong Kong Institute of Education did not clear her of the charge, the institute's former president claimed yesterday. Paul Morris said the review had neither 'quashed nor queried' the finding of a commission of inquiry that Mrs Law interfered in academic freedom. That was because the case was limited to a judgment about phone calls between Mrs Law - at the time permanent secretary for education and manpower - and Ip Kin-yuen, then an HKIEd lecturer in education policy and administration, Professor Morris said. Mr Ip had been a critic of the government's education reforms and had published articles about them. Mrs Law is on record as having phoned him to take issue with his views. The two-day judicial review of the commission's findings was heard in October in the Court of First Instance, but the judgment was only handed down on Friday. In it, the judges said: 'We do not see that it would be improper for a senior official to privately engage an academic in order to state [the] government's views, even to the extent of arguing that the academic should ... change his or her views. That is all part of the ebb and flow of free debate.' However, Professor Morris argued that the calls to Mr Ip were not the issue on which the commission of inquiry found Mrs Law wanting. The central finding of the inquiry, he said, was that she had acted improperly by indirectly approaching academics' superior - himself, in this case. That issue was not addressed by the review and it did not, therefore, clear Mrs Law, said Professor Morris, now a professor at the University of London's Institute of Education. The commission of inquiry found a complaint that Mrs Law telephoned Professor Morris on four occasions and, allegedly, asked him to dismiss certain staff members critical of education reforms to be only 'partially established'. It did, however, say such approaches were improper whether or not there was a request for dismissal. Following the ruling, Mrs Law resigned as head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Professor Morris said: 'The government's appeal [in the judicial review] was limited solely to matters arising from the two phone calls between Mrs Law and Mr Ip.' Mr Ip also criticised the hearing for having narrowed its focus so far as to ignore 'the key of the whole incident', namely Mrs Law's 'improper' conversations with Professor Morris. 'This leaves me puzzled,' he said. However, Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung said the judgment showed that 'we have all along respected academic freedom'. 'The ruling has once again proved that our exchange with academia is based on such a principle,' he said. Mrs Law said the review judgment had put academic freedom 'in a proper perspective'. 'I am pleased to see that justice is done,' she said. Former education chief Arthur Li Kwok-cheung - who was cleared by the commission of putting pressure on HKIEd to merge with a university - was not surprised the judgment had gone the government's way. 'From beginning to end, there had been no one interfering with academic freedom,' he said.