Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong’s ‘godfather of localism’ Horace Chin set to lose job at Lingnan University

Controversial professor known for pro-independence views says his contract, which will expire in August, is unlikely to be renewed

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 February, 2016, 10:19am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016, 12:13pm

A Lingnan University academic well known for his localist stance is set to lose his job due to possible non-renewal of his employment contract, which will expire in August.

Dr Horace Chin Wan-kan, 54, an assistant professor in the university’s Chinese department, said this was likely as the department had told him the renewal would not be recommended. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Chin said he had been removing books from his office and was ready to leave the university.

A decision by university president Professor Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon is expected. Chin will be notified about the university’s decision next month.

READ MORE: President of Hong Kong’s Lingnan University warns outspoken colleague to watch his words or ‘bear the consequences’

The academic said on Tuesday that the department’s decision was made under political pressure.

Chin, who has a doctorate in ethnology from the University of Göttingen in Germany, was previously an adviser to former Secretary of Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping.

After leaving that job in 2007, Chin published a book suggesting that Hong Kong should become a city state. The book, which has been credited with inspiring the autonomy movement, is widely seen as having laid the foundations of today’s localist movement. Chin, also known as Chin Wan, is considered by many to be the godfather of localism.

In March last year, Cheng warned Chin to be careful in his words and actions, or bear the consequences. The warning came in a letter written after Cheng received complaints from alumni and members of the public about Chin’s speeches.

READ MORE: Hong Kong ‘localist’ groups seek inspiration from academic’s book

In the letter, Cheng said: “The university safeguards the freedom of academics and of speech, and respects the right to express opinions enjoyed by the staff, but some of your words and behaviour over the past few years contradicted your status as a scholar, and went beyond the bottom line of the limit of speech freedom.”

Without specifying which remarks he was referring to, Cheng also said Chin’s words and conduct had violated the professors’ code of ethics and badly affected the university’s reputation.

Chin, who had also been criticised for his role in the Occupy protests in Mong Kok in 2014, believed Cheng’s remarks were directed at his city state argument and pro-independence stance. His guess was based on letters and materials relating to complaints received by Cheng’s office.

READ MORE: Hong Kong Lingnan University students force cancellation of council meeting

He said he expected his position would be left vacant for a period as it was hard to find a writing instructor for the department.

Chin was last seen publicly on February 20, at a rally for Edward Leung Tin-kei, the candidate for radical localist group Hong Kong Indigenous in the upcoming Legislative Council New Territories East by-election.

A Lingnan University spokesman said on Tuesday that he would not comment on an employment issue concerning an individual staff member due to privacy concerns.