British academics call on University of Hong Kong not to dismiss jailed law professor

British academics call on University of Hong Kong not to dismiss jailed law professorHundreds of international academics have signed an open letter in support of a jailed Hong Kong law professor currently in solitary confinement, urging his university not to dismiss him from his position. Benny Tai Yiu-ting, one of nine founders of the 2014 Umbrella movement, was sentenced to 16 months in prison in April over public nuisance charges related to his role in the mass protests that lasted for 79 days. Tai's appeal is scheduled for August 15, but pro-Beijing groups are calling the University of Hong Kong to remove him from his position as an associate professor of law.      More than 300 academics including professors from Oxford University and University College London have signed the letter in support of Tai, which was released today. “Professor Tai has expressed his willingness to accept criminal punishment in service of his convictions, he should not be additionally published by losing his academic position,” they say in the letter to Xiang Zhang, president of the University of Hong Kong.  Protesters use steels barricades to form a defensive line inside the Quarry bay MTR station Credit: AP Terry C. Halliday, a research professor at the American Bar Foundation, warned that a dismissal would also be a "disaster" for the university's global reputation.  The university is expected to schedule a disciplinary hearing after Tai's appeal, having said in April it would follow up on the court's decision in accordance with its internal procedure.  Another jailed founder of the 2014 movement, Chan Kin-Man was an associate professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, but retired at the end of 2018 before he was tried. He is also serving a 16-month sentence. Tai was sent to solitary confinement after joining the city-wide strike by refusing to work in the prison last Monday. Lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai, who has visited Tai in prison, posted on Facebook: “It is unclear what the authorities' next step is." Tear gas was fired in in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong on Sunday August 11 Credit: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP Prison authority rules mandate that inmates must work at least six hours per day. But the situation risks inflaming protests in Hong Kong, the largest since 2014.  Police have arrested more than 420 people since June 9, 44 of them charged with rioting, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.  “I think what has happened to Tai is posing a possible risk to other protesters that have been arrested, but this is making us even more angry towards the government,” said Matthew Sung, a 25-year-old protester. “By arresting more protesters who participated in political events, it’s actually creating bigger conflicts between the government and the younger generation.” Metro stations in Hong Kong resumed regular service on Monday and streets were being cleaned of debris as the city recovered from another night of violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police. Shocking footage of HongKong riot police charging into a subway station pursuing pro-democracy activists and firing into them at point blank range. I’ve seen police being provoked here but I’m speechless. Carrie Lam says no police inquiry needed they’re investigating themselves. pic.twitter.com/R61BytE6ft— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) August 11, 2019 Ramping up the use of force against protesters, police fired volleys of tear gas at protesters across the territory on Sunday and staged baton charges in flashpoints in downtown Hong Kong and in working class districts. Protesters threw two petrol bombs, which police said injured an officer, and used flash-mob strategy, withdrawing when pressed to reappear elsewhere, to combat police. Police stormed a number of underground train stations, firing tear gas and arresting protesters. Footage on social media showed riot police with truncheons chasing protesters into Tai Koo station, where officers apparently fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters. Speaking of arrested protest leaders, Matthew Ma, a 17-year-old student, said: “The government is trying to ‘kill the chicken to scare the monkey’, but protesters that are standing on the frontline, they are not even scared of tear gas and rubber bullets. “Leaders like Benny Tai and Edward Leung, they are actually the ones who encourage us to fight for democracy in Hong Kong.”



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