The past month has been a roller coaster for higher education in Hong Kong. Since Beijing implemented the National Security Law (NSL) a year ago, concerns about academic freedom have been rising.

Government leaders participated in the competition by suggesting that critical remarks might violate the law, leading to police raids on the city’s oldest student union. The academic community has also been testifying for the first defendant charged under the NSL in high-profile trials to debate the exact meaning and legality of the protest phrase.

Expert told Times Higher Education The city is entering a “new era” where teaching, research and debate on controversial topics may be more difficult. This trapped managers between the local culture that values ​​open investigations and the authorities accustomed to higher levels of control.

“NSL basically connects Hong Kong with the mainland [Chinese] Academia and students have known for decades: academic and knowledge reviews are the norm-the difference lies in the mainland [Chinese] Gregory Lee, a professor of Chinese studies at the University of St Andrews, who held a senior position at the University of Hong Kong, said: “They have learned to navigate the whimsical nature of this system, while their counterparts in Hong Kong have not.”

The most recent salvo was fired on July 13, when the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and the ex-principal principal of eight public universities in the city, Carrie Lam, called on the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the police to “follow up” a statement from the Student Union regarding a man Stabbed a policeman and committed suicide.

Although the students have withdrawn their statements and resigned from their positions, Lin said that their behavior was “outraging” and she “felt shame and extreme anger”.

On the same day, the University of Hong Kong severed its already fragile ties with the trade union, and in a statement accused it of “blatantly whitewashing violence, challenging the moral bottom line of society, and damaging the reputation and interests of the entire Hong Kong community.”

HKU spokesperson told Times Higher Education “The university’s decision sets out its legal responsibilities to ensure that independently registered organizations will not use university premises for activities that may be at risk of illegality.”

On July 16, the police raided the empty union office and took several boxes of supplies. The city’s police chief stated on July 18 that former student council members may have violated the NSL.

Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) said on July 26 that it will no longer charge fees on behalf of its student union and will compulsorily offer national security courses in the upcoming academic year.

Wei Guowei, the principal and vice principal of HKBU, was interviewed by the media on the same day and was asked whether certain subjects would become “forbidden areas” under the New Law. “We cannot dictate what scholars can or cannot do, but we are not the police or the government either,” he said. “This is a judgment that all of us must make.”

Keith Richburg, Dean of the School of Journalism, University of Hong Kong, told Times Higher Education “Under the NSL, Hong Kong must have entered an uncertain new era.”

“No one knows exactly what is forbidden and what is not, because the law is only one year old, and there is no precedent and no case law to learn from,” he said. “So everyone is just groping blindly, trying to find their own way, instead of accidentally tripping on an invisible red line. Recently, we have seen police and prosecutors expand the definition of the law to include words, feelings and even thoughts. ,” he added.

Zeng Zhiwei, director of the Institute of Chinese Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, said: “If a lecturer raises the issue of self-determination for discussion and asks students to take Hong Kong as an example, it will violate the NSL. This means that it is extremely unlikely that this will be raised in class. In the same way, scholars in Hong Kong may avoid such problems for research.”

“Before the launch of NSL last year, this was not the case,” he added.

Referring to the recent arrests of book publishers trying to explain the Hong Kong democracy movement to children, Lee of the University of St Andrews said that Hong Kong “is far beyond the red line-you are somewhere in between. 1984 and Alice in Wonderland.

“On the contrary, you are retroactively surrounded by a circle of’wrongdoing’, until the moment you find yourself surrounded, you don’t know its essence. Reading NSL carefully will not prepare you for this,” he Say.

Simultaneously with the show being staged at the University of Hong Kong was the first trial of a suspect charged under the NSL. A man was charged with driving a motorcycle into the police while waving a flag with protest slogans.

The nearly month-long proceedings ended on July 20 and included lengthy and often esoteric debates in academia over whether the slogan implies separatism or separatism—a point that could become a legal precedent.

Francis Lee, dean of the School of Journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), testified in defense that the slogan had no “real meaning.” Eliza Lee, a professor of political science at the University of Hong Kong, added that based on people’s understanding and personal experience, it may have multiple meanings.

Liu Zhipeng, a historian and vice president of Lingnan University in Hong Kong, quoted ancient Chinese texts in his speech for the prosecution. He believed that the words “liberation” and “revolution” in the slogans had not changed their meanings for centuries and could be related to the overthrow of the regime.

At the same time, critical professors are moving on.

He has served in the Law School of the University of Hong Kong for three years, including the longest-serving dean of the school, Johannes Chan (Johannes Chan). Ming Pao It was reported this month that after his 62-year-old contract expired, he did not apply to stay at the university. He is now listed as part-time.

Chen Jianwen, a sociologist who participated in the Occupy Central Democratic Movement, said that he has gone to Taiwan’s National Chengchi University as a visiting professor for a year. He was an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Confirmed by Li Qingguan, a world-renowned sociologist and chair professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Times Higher Education This month, she has already submitted her resignation.

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