Petition to oust Occupy co-founder Benny Tai from university post attracts 80,000 signatures
Pro-government legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu organised the online petition last week
More than 80,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the University of Hong Kong to oust Benny Tai Yiu-ting, the controversial law lecturer who co-founded the pro-democracy Occupy Central protests in 2014.
On Wednesday, pro-government legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, who organised the online campaign, threatened to sue the university if it refused to take action against Tai, whom he accused of promoting “lawbreaking under the name of civil disobedience”.
Ho, also a former Law Society president, demanded the university launch an enquiry into Tai’s conduct. He said that if he does not receive a satisfactory reply from the university by next Thursday, he may consider taking legal action.
He cited the University of Hong Kong Ordinance which allows the university council to sack a teacher “after due enquiry into the facts and ... on the findings of such enquiry there exists in the opinion of the council good cause for such termination”.
Ho had written to the university council once last month over the same issue but received no reply to date.
Last Tuesday, he launched the petition calling on the university to sack Tai, and as of 6pm on Tuesday when the campaign closed, a total of 80,623 people had signed.
“Now I have the support of over 80,000 people. I don’t think a responsible university governing body would just put it aside and ignore such a serious request,” said Ho.
He argued he was not interfering with the university’s internal affairs, saying: “The University of Hong Kong is a publicly funded university and it has a public duty to ensure that the teaching quality and the performance of its staff members would be up to the public’s expectations.
“Is it not absurd that someone who calls on people to break the law can teach law in the university? Do we want to see such a lecturer to continue corrupting the minds of the young people?”
In March, Tai and his fellow Occupy protests founders – Dr Chan Kin-man and the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – were charged for their roles in the Occupy protests that brought parts of downtown Hong Kong to a standstill. The District Court will hear the case again on September 19.
Ho urged the university to suspend Tai, pending the trial.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, a university spokesman said: “In general, we have due procedures for taking actions against students and staff if we think they have infringed the regulations of the university. “
Tai did not reply on Wednesday to requests for comment from the South China Morning Post.
But he said in a radio interview last month that he did not ask people to break the law arbitrary and that his original idea was for the older protesters, not young people, to bear the legal responsibilities of civil disobedience.