New report: 'Academic Freedom in Hong Kong since 2015: Between two systems'
Hong Kong Watch today releases an in-depth study into academic freedom in Hong Kong. The report concludes that although academic freedom is ‘alive and generally well’ in Hong Kong, it is under threat due to the politicization of universities following the 2014 Occupy protests.The state of academic freedom in Hong Kong is a microcosm of the state of “one country, two systems” as a whole. It is alive, and generally well, but only due to constant public vigilance against growing threats.
Hong Kong’s students and scholars played a central role in the 2014 Occupy protests for political reform. As a result, since early 2015, a growing top-down backlash has attempted to limit academic freedom and bring academia under the authorities’ control.
This post-Occupy retribution is manifested in the following trends:
- Controversial academic figures have been removed from their posts, seen promotions blocked, or faced extra-legal campaigns to pressure their removal. These were all driven by political motivations.
- State-appointed and politically connected figures have governed universities in a manner divorced from the will of students and faculty.
- There is a growing push to place limits on freedom of speech, without any legal basis.
Although academic work in Hong Kong remains considerably freer than in the rest of the People’s Republic of China, these trends suggest that elements of academic control in place elsewhere in China are gradually being incorporated into the Hong Kong system, threatening the city’s academic freedom and thus its universities’ reputations.
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