An academic alliance has warned that the ongoing attacks on Occupy co-founder Benny Tai resemble Cultural Revolution campaigns and are an attempt by Beijing to set the stage for the introduction of strict anti-subversion laws. The group says Professor Tai's remarks were purely academic but were twisted by authorities into sounding like a call for Hong Kong independence.
"Academics are free to make speeches on any possible issues, including on whether the constitution of the country should be amended," said Professor Dixon Sing from the University of Science and Technology. "There's no doubt about it."
Sing said there was no bar to the content of a speech as long as it didn't advocate violence or libel anyone.
At a forum in Taiwan last month, Tai said people need to think about what they want, should China become a democratic country. He said Chinese people, including Hongkongers, should think about whether or not they want to set up an independent country or a federal government.
Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the SAR government responded by accusing Professor Tai of advocating Hong Kong independence, and pro-establishment figures quickly followed suit.
Tai, an associate law professor at the University of Hong Kong, was a leading figure in the Occupy Campaign of 2014. He now says he fears for his safety.
Sing also said the criticism was infringing on Hong Kong's academic freedom, enshrined in the Basic Law.
But Beijing loyalist Tam Yiu-chung accused Tai of not respecting the Basic Law and the Chinese constitution. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee member said Tai had made the comment in Taiwan at an event organised by a Taiwan separatist group, so it had gone beyond the scope of academic study and the realm of freedom of expression.
Later the Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung dismissed suggestions that the government was paving the way for Article 23 anti-subversion legislation by officially condemning Tai. He said the condemnation and Article 23 were two different matters and it was unnecessary to link them. He said the government will only begin such legislation when conditions are right.
Last updated: 2018-04-05 HKT 17:38