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Archive for Saturday, August 4, 2001

Convicted scholar gets OK to teach

Hong Kong school’s decision largely applauded

August 4, 2001

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— Saying they lacked enough information to decide otherwise, executives at Hong Kong's City University decided Friday to let U.S. scholar Li Shaomin continue teaching, despite his conviction on spying charges in China.

The unanimous decision was applauded by fellow academics, who had urged the school to show its respect for intellectual freedom by allowing Li to keep his job as a professor of marketing.

Li seemed delighted, saying the decision was "a good one."

University officials also agreed that he would not face a disciplinary hearing. "It is not practical given the limited information available," the council said in a statement.

Li was born in China but studied at Princeton University and became an American citizen in 1995. He was deported to the United States last week after his July 14 conviction in Beijing of spying for Taiwan and damaging Chinese national security. No evidence against him has been publicly released.

The scholar's ability to return to his home and his job in Hong Kong was viewed by many here as an affirmation of the "one-country, two-systems" arrangement intended to preserve the territory's capitalist way of life after its return to Chinese rule four years ago.

"This shows that Beijing obviously sees the advantage of showing the whole world that Hong Kong should be treated separately," said lawmaker Martin Lee, who as head of the Democratic Party is Hong Kong's main opposition figure.

University officials insisted that their decision was based purely on the "best interests" of the school.

"Our executive committee is not a court. We are an academic institution," said university president Chang Hsing-kang.

Mak Hoi-wah, a member of the university's social studies department, joined colleagues in saying it was the "right decision."

However, Ma Lik, a Hong Kong delegate to the Chinese National People's Congress, accused the university of disregarding the Chinese judicial system, saying they "didn't treat the incident seriously."

"Some students may not want a spy to be their teacher," Ma said.

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