Academic Freedom and Critical Speech in Hong Kong: China's Response to Occupy Central and the Future of 'One Country, Two Systems'
64 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2017
Date Written: September 27, 2016
Since July 1997, when Hong Kong was reunited with the People’s Republic of China, academics in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong have fiercely protected their right to engage in critical speech and practice academic freedom. They have been aided by Hong Kong’s regional constitution (known as the “Basic Law”), which incorporates international human rights treaties into domestic law and contains unusually detailed protections for freedom of expression, academic freedom, and educational autonomy. These constitutional provisions originated in the Sino- British Joint Declaration, a bilateral treaty that was duly registered with the United Nations. Nonetheless, this article documents a dramatic decline in academic freedom in Hong Kong since the last comprehensive study of the topic was published in 2006. This is partly because the Chinese Communist Party has made a concerted effort to punish Hong Kong academics and student organizations for their role in the Umbrella Movement and other pro-democracy movements. Equally important, there have been significant changes to the governance structure in Hong Kong’s universities over the past decade, creating overly-centralized universities that are far too vulnerable to outside interference. These developments have already damaged the quality and international reputation of Hong Kong’s universities, which will ultimately hurt not only Hong Kong but also the People’s Republic of China.
Keywords: Hong Kong, Freedom of Expression, Academic Freedom, Sino-British Joint Declaration, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation