Call for a Public Hearing and a Thorough Investigation: Uphold Academic Freedom

2007-02-12 - chong

The governing council of Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) decided not to renew the contract of its president Professor Paul Morris by the end of January. This incident caused public concern for academic freedom because it is believed that the decision is related to Professor Morris' opposition to government's plan of merging HKIEd with Chinese University. Then the vice-president Professor Bernard Luk told the media more cases about government putting pressure on him and Professor Morris to punish some dissident teachers for political reasons. Regarding these serious accusations, a group of university teachers released a statement to call for public hearing and investigation.

1.Allegations: Interfering with academic freedom

Professor Bernard Luk, Vice-President of the HK Institute of Education (HKIEd), recently alleged that high-level officials in the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) repeatedly meddled with academic independence and freedom. If proven true, these interventions violate basic rights highly valued by the community and enshrined in the Basic Law. These allegations call for a fair and thorough investigation.

2.Public hearing

Allegations and denials from both sides carried in the media only serve to fuel greater confusion and worry among the public. This does not help clarify the situation. EMB officials assert that Professor Luk’s allegations are connected to personnel disputes in the HKIEd and even to the Chief Executive election, thereby diverting attention away from the crux of the problem and blurring the picture. In contrast, a fair, just and open investigation gives each party the full opportunity to state and prove their case and allows the public to witness the whole fact-finding process. The credibility of the public hearing conducted by the University of Hong Kong Council for the Robert Chung case in 2000 sets a good example. An experienced and well-trusted judge presided and conducted the hearing in a fair and meticulous manner, and the whole process was broadcast live. A similar hearing should be held for the present allegations against the EMB.

3.Tip of the iceberg?

Professor Luk openly accused the EMB of trampling on academic autonomy and in return, likely faced tremendous pressure. Other academics whom the EMB has allegedly tried to silence and our HKIEd colleagues living under the fear of possible official surveillance likely felt similar pressure. As fellow academics, we stand together. If Professor Luk’s allegations were true, government officials who have trampled on academic freedom would likely have no scruples about venturing beyond the HKIEd. The apparently small number of alleged cases of government intervention might stem from university administration sheltering of colleagues from direct blows, or, alternatively, their “cooperation” with the authorities. This fear among academics must be acknowledged and addressed.

4.Solidarity

To show our support for our HKIEd colleagues, and to uphold academic freedom, we will disseminate relevant information to the academic community. We will also hand in a petition to the Education Panel of the Legislative Council tomorrow (12 Feb 2007), urging them to convene a public hearing into the alleged official intervention. In addition, we call on fellow academics to join the University Education Concern Group (If you want to join our email group, please visit here.) in order to share information and exchange views, and to work together to guard our basic rights.

The University Education Concern Group
11 February 2007

Contact persons:
CHOI Po King, CUHK
FUNG Wai Wah, CityU
HO Chi Kwan, PolyU
LEUNG Yuk Ming, Lingnan
TO Yiu Ming, HKBU

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