Academic Freedom in Hong Kong: the Potential Impact of the New National Security Law
Date: August 15, 2020 (Saturday)
Time: 09:00 — 11:00
Venue: Zoom Webinar
Zoom Registration: Please click HERE to reserve a place.
(Prior registration will be required. The zoom ID will be sent to registrants by email)
Welcoming Remarks by Professor Fu Hualing, Dean, Warren Chan Professor of Human Rights and Responsibilities, HKU Faculty of Law
Proposing a ‘Bottom-Up’ Approach to Protecting Academic Freedom in the Shadow of the NSL
Carole Petersen (Professor of Law, University of Hawaii at Manoa):
This presentation begins by briefly introducing the significant written protections for academic freedom in the Joint Declaration and HK’s Basic Law and explaining how this framework was undermined in the past two decades by changes to university governance structures. The enactment of the NSL presents a further challenge due to the broad and vague language of the new criminal offenses. HK academics should not wait for policies to be announced from above. Rather, academics should take a ‘bottom up’ approach and adopt robust policies at the faculty and departmental levels. Such policies should emphasize the importance of scholarly research (including ‘knowledge exchange’ as one of the criteria in research assessment exercises) and the demand for courses that include experiential teaching.
International Standards Supporting Academic Freedom
Kelley Loper (Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, HKU):
This presentation will draw primarily on the ICCPR, which has a special place in HK’s constitutional framework due to Article 39of the HK Basic Law and is also preserved in Article 4 of the NSL. HK courts will likely use the ICCPR as a guide when interpreting vague language in the NSL and thus the views of the UN Human Rights Committee (the treaty-monitoring body for the ICCPR) are particularly relevant. However, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is also referred to in Article 39 of the Basic Law and Article 4 of the NSL. Thus, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights can offer guidance, particularly in the context of the right to education.
Comparative Perspectives: Lessons from Abroad
Threats to academic freedom are a global phenomena and this presentation will draw on lessons from jurisdictions outside Hong Kong. When faced with laws and government policies adopted in the name of “national security” university administrators may feel a need to take proactive steps to comply with the law. They have an understandable desire to protect their students and faculty from arrest and possible criminal prosecution. However, universities also need to be careful not to design policies that “protect” the university by chilling academic freedom and encouraging self-censorship.