University of Hong Kong (HKU) chair professor of public law Johannes Chan Mun-man has left his post after more than three decades with the institution following the expiration of his contract, the Post has learned. On the university’s website, Chan retained the title of adjunct professor in the law faculty, but there was no indication of his role going forward, or what courses he would be teaching. Chan was seemingly singled out for criticism by the city’s No 2 official, John Lee Ka-chiu, over comments he gave to the media on the legality of members of the public mourning the assailant who knifed a policeman then killed himself on July 1 – the same day the scholar’s departure was said to have taken effect. Sources told the Post that Chan, 62, “retired” after his two-year contract was not renewed when it ended, while another source said the faculty had decided the professor would serve in a part-time capacity in the future, but on different terms and benefits. The decision – as with all staff appointments and arrangements – was made by HKU’s governing council, and passed without much discussion, that source added. The Post has reached out to Chan and the governing council for comment. HKU changed its policy in 2016 and began offering those turning 60 new shorter-term contracts instead of simply extending their existing ones. Critics have accused university administrators of using the policy to get rid of “troublesome” staff. It came as a surprise to many when Chan was given only a two-year extension in 2018. Chan, who had sought a five-year extension, had been the university’s longest serving law dean – from 2002 to 2014 – and Hong Kong’s first and only honorary senior counsel. HKU is one of four publicly funded universities that have retained 60 as the retirement age, flouting a government policy change in 2015 raising it to 65 for civil servants. Police up patrols, arrest woman with box cutter after online calls to ‘mourn’ July 1 attacker Frequently outspoken and widely known, Chan recently found himself at the centre of a controversy over comments given to the media about the July 1 knife attack in Causeway Bay. While Chan stressed the violent act should be condemned, he also said that it was far-fetched to suggest it was illegal to lay flowers in memory of the assailant as some had done in the aftermath of the attack, much to authorities’ chagrin . Mourning the attacker’s death out of sympathy, he added, was very different from promoting terrorism. In what was seen as a thinly veiled response, former security chief and current Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu called out members of the legal community and demanded they refrain from downplaying the impact of radical criminality. “There are people who tried to downplay the adverse consequences and possible harm that the extreme acts could inflict … People, especially those with a legal background, must understand that what they say has an influence on society,” Lee said on Wednesday, without naming Chan. Those who tried to downplay the severity of terrorism – as some officials have described the attack – would be “sinners for 1,000 years”, he added. The flap was not Chan’s first brush with controversy. Back in 2015, Chan was caught up in a political row when HKU’s governing council rejected his appointment to a key managerial post due to his close ties to then colleague Benny Tai Yiu-ting , a co-founder of the Occupy movement who is now in prison awaiting trial on national security law charges. HKU student leaders quit after backlash over motion ‘mourning’ man who knifed policeman Chan at the time said the appointment was not “an issue of personal gain or loss, but one about the core values of academic freedom and institutional autonomy”, noting the decision was made by the HKU council, which included many representatives from outside the school. Meanwhile, the university has also been in the spotlight this week after leaders of the HKU Students’ Union Council passed a resolution on Wednesday voicing appreciation for the July 1 attacker’s “sacrifice”. The statement prompted outraged responses from government and university officials, one of whom suggested it may have violated the national security law. The union’s executive committee subsequently apologised for the resolution and announced on Friday it would be stepping down en masse.