Community & Education Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai’s Poly U teaching contract not renewed after flag-turning conviction

Opposition lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai’s Hong Kong Polytechnic University teaching contract has not been renewed following his flag desecration conviction last September.

“Your conduct and convictions are inconsistent with the university’s commitment to quality education and aspiration to embrace internationalisation,” the Civic Passion legislator cited a disciplinary letter as saying.

Cheng Chung-tai

Cheng Chung-tai. File photo: In-Media.

The 34-year-old was fined HK$5,000 at the Eastern Magistrates’ Court for turning miniature Chinese and Hong Kong flags upside down during a legislative session in October 2016.

The pro-Beijing camp had placed the flags on their tables as a protest against perceived insults against Chinese people made by localist legislators Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching – who were later ousted – during their oaths of office.

Cheng said at the time he considered the display of flags at the Legislative Council chamber to be “cheap patriotic acts.”

Spring semester teaching duties

A teaching fellow at the Polytechnic University’s Department of Applied Social Science, he wrote on Facebook on Friday that he received a letter announcing the results of disciplinary proceedings against him. His contract will expire on June 30.

Cheng added that he received a call from the head of department telling him that he would also be relieved of his teaching duties in the upcoming spring semester.

“In other words, I can freely travel around the campus, but cannot ‘contact’ students for work purposes.”

On Friday afternoon, Cheng told reporters that he also received a report from a university disciplinary committee hearing into his conduct. He said it alleged that he was a bad role model to students and made the public lose confidence in the university’s standards.

“I believe all this to be absurd,” he added. “Embracing internationalisation has absolutely nothing to do with my flag case. Why don’t you be more direct, and say [you’re embracing] mainlandisation?”

cheng chung-tai

File photo: In-Media.

A Polytechnic University spokesperson told HKFP that a disciplinary committee decided not to renew Cheng’s contract after two months of investigation and discussion.

“The decision was made after taking into account the seriousness of the behavior of Dr Cheng, the judgment of the court and the nature of Dr Cheng’s work, with reference to other cases judged by the [committee].”

Regarding the cancellation of Cheng’s spring semester courses, the spokesperson said that arrangements were made in the interests of students because his behaviour deviated from the university’s requirements for a member of teaching staff.

The contract of former Lingnan University localist professor Chin Wan – who ran unsuccessfully in the legislative elections in an alliance with Cheng and Civic Passion – was also not renewed when it ended in August 2016.

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Lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai's Poly U teaching contract not renewed after flag-turning conviction