A professor at Lingnan University has revealed that he received a letter from the University’s president Leonard Cheng warning him that his politically charged speech has hurt the reputation of the university and that he should “mind [his] words” or else “suffer the consequences.”
Dr Chin Wan-kan, commonly known as his pen name Wan Chin, is an assistant professor in Chinese at Lingnan. Chin authored the book Hong Kong as a City-State and runs a popular Facebook account advocating Hong Kong’s establishment as an autonomous city-state in confederation with China and other East Asian countries.
Chin, a major figure in the localist camp, is pro-democracy and opposes pro-Beijing parties and groups; however, he has also said that pan-democrats “should be sent to hell” as their methods for attaining democracy are no longer effective.
In the letter, dated March 16, Cheng wrote that he had received several complaints from alumni and the public regarding Chin’s words, online media Local Press reported.
“Lingnan University has always defended academic and speech freedom and respected staff members’ right to express their opinions,” Cheng wrote, “but some of your words and actions are inconsistent with your role as an academic. They have crossed the line of freedom of speech and […] have severely hurt the reputation of Lingnan. I urge you to pay attention, mind your words and actions, and return to teaching and academic studies—or suffer consequences.”
Before becoming the president of Lingnan University, Leonard Cheng was an advisor to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s election campaign in 2012.
Chin also told Local Press that Cheng had previously forwarded to him letters from various groups critical of his work. Chin said that these were meant to put pressure on him, as his contract with the University is due to end in August 2016.
“The warning letter from the president is graceless and vulgar, blocking scholars’ speech and academic freedom,” Chin said on his Facebook page, “The phrase ‘suffer consequences’ almost sounded like words from a hooligan, bringing shame upon Lingnan University.”
Recently, two members of the University Council newly appointed by Leung have sparked controversy and student protests due to their pro-Beijing political stances and calls to dismiss or de-fund the Student Union.
Two others senior staff members at Lingnan University have also been accused this week of plagiarising a doctoral thesis and operating a “diploma mill” selling illegitimate degrees from overseas universities.