Hong Kong lecturer decries ‘political persecution’ after Polytechnic University lets him go over Chinese flag desecration
Localist lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai calls accusations against him by university ‘ridiculous’
A Hong Kong localist lawmaker is set to lose his job as a university lecturer in disciplinary action over his court conviction for desecrating the Chinese and Hong Kong flags in the city’s legislature.
Cheng Chung-tai, of pro-democracy party Civic Passion, on Friday said he had received notice that Polytechnic University would not renew his contract as a teaching fellow at the Department of Applied Social Science when it ended in June.
Cheng, 34, said the decision was a result of disciplinary action related to his conviction last September for flipping over the small Chinese and Hong Kong flags in the Legislative Council in 2016, for which he was fined HK$5,000.
“Your conduct and conviction are inconsistent with the university’s commitment to quality education and aspirations to embrace internationalisation,” the lawmaker quoted PolyU as saying in a statement posted on Facebook.
Cheng said it amounted to “political persecution” as there was no appeal mechanism against the decision and the accusations made against him by the university were “ridiculous” and not related to his teaching performance during his six-year tenure.
The classes he was due to teach at the beginning of the next semester on Monday would be handed over to other staff, he added.
Cheng said his dismissal was the second case in two years of academics being targeted for holding more radical views. In 2016 a Lingnan University professor well known for his localist stance on many issues did not have his contract renewed after seven years of teaching.
Watch: Cheng Chung-tai turns national flag upside down
Dr Horace Chin Wan-kan, an assistant professor at the university’s Department of Chinese, published a book suggesting Hong Kong should become a city state. The book has been credited with inspiring and laying the foundations for Hong Kong’s autonomy movement.
Chin, also known as Chin Wan, is considered by many to be the godfather of Hong Kong localism. He was criticised for his active role in encouraging people to take part in the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014.
Cheng’s case will add pressure to tertiary institutions in the city already under fire over controversial issues such as whether students should be allowed to discuss Hong Kong independence on campuses.
Cheng, who completed his bachelor’s degree at PolyU, is a part-time lecturer, teaching classes on Hong Kong society and contemporary Chinese society and popular culture.
He was the first Civic Passion member to enter the legislature in the 2016 elections, securing 54,496 votes.
A statement from PolyU on Friday said their staff disciplinary committee made the decision after more than two months of investigations and discussions.
“The decision was made after taking into account the seriousness of the behaviour of Dr Cheng, the judgment of the court and the nature of Dr Cheng’s work, with reference to other cases judged by the committee,” the statement read.
The university added that the decision was made “in the best interests of the university” and that Cheng’s behaviour had deviated from the institution’s requirements for teaching staff.