Community & Education Hong Kong

‘I am a troublemaker’: Hong Kong Baptist University denies contract extension for staff union chair

The chair of the Hong Kong Baptist University Faculty and Staff Union has to leave his job by end of August as he has not been offered a contract extension.

Benson Wong Wai-kwok, an assistant professor at the Department of Government and International Studies, said he was not surprised by the decision since he was no friend to the management. Wong is also a member of the governing council elected by staff members.

“In the eyes of the university, I am a troublemaker,” he told HKFP. “If my fight for colleague’s benefits as the chair of the union offends the powerful, it is not only suppression, but revenge.”

Benson Wong

Benson Wong. Photo: In-Media.

Wong supported students who were suspended for protesting against a Mandarin language requirement exam at the university, before the suspensions were lifted. Wong also comments regularly on the university’s labour issues on media.

‘Local impact’

Wong had been teaching in the university since 2010. In 2016, he said that he had asked for an extension of his assistant professor role, but the university “unilaterally” changed his application to a higher-level position of associate professor, which was not approved because he did not fulfil research requirements.

He then applied for the associate professor role, as well as an extension to his assistant professor role at the same time. But Wong said only the promotion request was handled. The extension request was denied again.

Recently, Wong sought to switch roles from assistant professor to senior lecturer – a teaching job without research requirements: “I switched track because I refused to play the game of the academic factory anymore – it measures academic achievement only by English journal articles and research funding,” he told HKFP.

“Even though the teaching burden would be higher, I could write in Chinese to create more local impact in society and communities.”

Benson Wong

Photo: Handout.

But on Monday, Wong was notified that the request was denied by the Faculty Review Panel. He said superiors told him that a new requirement for the senior lecturer role demanded evidence of outstanding teaching – thus he was denied.

“If the requirements were raised, they could have recommended not offering a senior lecturer role and offered a lecturer role instead. It was not considered at all – they obviously want me to go as soon as possible,” he added.

Wong said he will ask for the report to understand the reasons his request was denied.

Baptist University

Baptist University. File photo: In-Media.

Earlier this month, a photo of Wong raising his middle fingers at a private event was posted on the university’s Democracy Wall – a public message board. Wong said it was inconvenient to respond to the incident, as he had filed a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.

A Baptist University spokesperson told HKFP: “The University adheres to its established procedures and policies in the review of academic staff members’ performance and their re-appointment, and the focus of the review includes teaching, research and service of the staff, as well as the manpower needs and financial situation of the faculty/department. The University will not disclose details of individual staff members’ reviews and contracts out of the respect for their privacy”

'I am a troublemaker': Hong Kong Baptist University denies contract extension for staff union chair