HKU pushed to sack Tai

Local | Staff reporter 20 Jul 2020

Pressure is building on the University of Hong Kong to sack Occupy Central cofounder Benny Tai Yiu-ting, with its former council member, Chan Che-wai, the latest to wade in on the issue.

The university's council will have a meeting on July 28 to discuss Tai's position as associate professor of law.

Tai, 55, was given a 16-month prison sentence last April after being convicted of two public nuisance charges related to Occupy Central in 2014, and is currently out on bail pending an appeal to overturn his conviction and sentencing.

HKU started a probe in January to see if there is a "good cause" for firing Tai. A dismissal on a good cause means an inability to perform efficiently the duties of the office, neglect of duty or "misconduct in an official or a private capacity."

After the probe, the HKU senate concluded this month that while Tai committed misconduct, his action did not amount to grounds for dismissal.

Chan, who was a HKU council and senate member, questioned the conclusion in an open letter to council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung. Tai received the longest sentence of all teaching staff, while others who were convicted have all left the university.

"With no exception, all those who were convicted of criminal offenses were terminated by the university, or resigned before such a process could be initiated," he said.

"A sentence of 16 months is much more severe than any of the sentences received by teaching staff terminated previously."

The senate reportedly suggested not sacking Tai, as he never introduced his own political beliefs in classes and his crime was committed in his individual capacity.

"Whether or not he introduced his political beliefs in class is something that the senate could not verify, as hardly any of its members attended his classes," Chan said.

"This is just hearsay, and therefore is not admissible as evidence to support [the contention] he had not done so," he added.

Chan said all terminated staff also committed crimes in their individual capacity. As this is not an excuse for not sacking staff, he said the same should also apply to Tai.

"The senate's advice in Tai's case is, therefore, unprecedented, yet the grounds for this extraordinary advice are unbelievably weak," he said.

Its advice that Tai committed misconduct is in line with all previous cases, but the suggestion that "his action did not amount to grounds for dismissal" is groundless, Chan said. "As it is beyond any doubt Tai has committed misconduct, he should be terminated."

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