On Saturday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that she has given up her honorary fellowship of the University of Cambridge’s Wolfson College, following accusations that academic freedom and freedom of expression were violated in her city.
Lam, who studied at Cambridge, said she was “extremely disappointed” that the college could slander someone based on hearsay rather than facts. “It was difficult to convince myself to keep ties with Wolfson College, so I have returned the title of honorary fellowship,” she wrote on Facebook on Saturday night.
In her message, she denied claims that she sought to curtail freedoms in Hong Kong, describing such claims as “baseless.”
Wolfson College had recently shared with Lam its concerns regarding “her commitment to the protection of human rights and freedom of expression in Hong Kong following recent events there.”
Since last year, the college had been under pressure to withdraw the fellowship from the Hong Kong Chief Executive and its board was scheduled to discuss her honorary title in September.
The Chief Executive, who was designated by Beijing, is one of 11 Chinese and Hong Kong personalities targeted by the U.S. sanctions following Beijing’s late-June decision to impose a draconian national security law in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory of China.
The law tightens China’s control over Hong Kong. Since it took effect, about 20 pro-democracy activists have been arrested, including Jimmy Lai, owner of two newspapers critical of the Chinese regime.
Legislative candidates have had their candidatures invalidated, and books deemed in violation of the law have been withdrawn from the shelves of libraries and schools in Hong Kong.
Three renowned university academics have been dismissed after being jailed for their role in the ‘Umbrella Movement,’ a peaceful general mobilisation that paralysed the former British colony for 79 days in 2014, and aroused the anger of Beijing.
Hong Kong has some of the best universities in Asia, but Beijing has made clear that it sees the city’s education system as one of the main reasons for the pro-democracy movement. The Chinese Government has ordered the Hong Kong authorities to dispense a more “patriotic” education and make sure the national security law is respected.