BEIJING — Scholars in Hong Kong are growing concerned that the territory’s cherished academic freedom is coming under renewed attack from China in the aftermath of last year’s student-led pro-democracy protests.
Attacks in Communist Party-backed newspapers on a leading liberal professor, reports of government interference in academic appointments and renewed calls for “patriotic education” to be introduced into schools have stirred up emotions in the former British colony.
Academics are concerned that China and its conservative backers in Hong Kong are trying to subtly exert more control over universities and schools in order to gradually rein in criticism and silence a source of unrest.
“We are very worried about the erosion of freedom of expression in Hong Kong — we see this happening in the media and it is now happening in academia,” said Dora Choi Po-king, an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and member of a new “Concern Group” of academics.
Hundreds of academics signed a petition letter this month expressing their concerns about “political intervention” in the territory’s universities and “a serious threat to academic freedom, one of the core values held dear in Hong Kong.”