Hong Kong: University professor investigating Tiananmen sacked

A Hong Kong university has fired a professor investigating the brutal 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square after city authorities refused to extend her visa.

Rowena He, an associate professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote a book in 2014 about the Tiananmen exiles, according to the institution’s history department website.

Hong Kong has long been the only place in China, with Macau on a smaller scale, where any commemoration of the victims of the Chinese military’s intervention against these peaceful protesters, which led to hundreds, even more than a thousand dead. , was tolerated.

But because of Beijing’s takeover of the formerly semi-autonomous territory, candlelight vigils in memory of the victims have been banned since 2020.

The teacher confirmed to AFP that she had been “fired with immediate effect”.

An HKCU spokesperson said that “employment of non-permanent residents is conditional on possession of a valid visa”.

“Visa decisions are made by the Department of Immigration and the university is not in a position to influence the allocation of visas,” added the spokesperson.

Hong Kong’s immigration department was not immediately available for comment.

The academic had taken up his post at CUHK in 2019 and was reportedly seeking an extension to his visa.

He received his PhD from the University of Toronto and previously taught at Harvard University. He currently holds a research position at the University of Texas at Austin, according to the university’s website, which claims he was born and raised in China.

The issue of the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests is highly sensitive to communist leaders and any commemoration is banned in mainland China.

In mid-2020, Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong after months of massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests.

Since then, the territory’s authorities have arrested organizers of the annual Tiananmen vigil and removed statues erected on university campuses honoring the victims.