Scores of politicians, academics and journalists in Hong Kong have signed up on a petition calling for the defense of academic freedoms in the city.
The petition, which was published in some local newspapers on Monday, came amid concerns over alleged political pressure on the University of Hong Kong (HKU).
Entitled “Defend academic freedom, protect our city and our educational institutions”, the petition was launched by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, Apple Daily reported.
Signatories, whose number totals nearly 570, included pan-democratic lawmakers, former government officials, academics and journalists as well as some senior executives from the financial industry.
“We wish to voice our deep concern at recent developments which pose an increasing threat to academic freedom and the autonomy of educational institutions,” the petition said.
“Academic freedom and the autonomy of educational institutions are fundamental rights guaranteed to Hong Kong under Article 137 of the Basic Law. We urge all citizens to share our concerns to join with us to ensure they are honored and preserved.”
It said the threat is manifesting itself in four forms, namely unwarranted personal attacks, particularly in left-wing media, on the competence and integrity of prominent and respected academics; public criticism by some senior government officials of the actions and opinions expressed by student bodies and academics; increasing interference in the choice of academic teaching materials; and growing perceptions of political bias and improper influence on the appointment of university officers and members of governing bodies.
Chan was quoted as saying that it is heartening to see so many people sign up on the petition in such a short period of time.
The petition came after former HKU law faculty dean Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun last month came under attack from pro-Beijing newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao.
The papers had accused Chan of failing to maintain standards at the faculty during his time as dean. Chan is said to be in the running for a pro-vice-chancellor post at HKU.
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