The University of Hong Kong (HKU) on Tuesday sacked Benny Tai, a veteran pro-democracy activist from his position as an associate professor of law.

Tai, a leading figure in Hong Kong’s major 2014 “Umbrella” pro-democracy protests, was sentenced to 16 months in prison last year for two public nuisance offences. He was released on bail pending an appeal.

“It marks the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong. Academic institutions in Hong Kong cannot protect their members from internal and outside interferences”, Tai said.

This month, Tai was  singled out by Beijing officials for his role in helping organise an unofficial primary vote for the opposition pro-democracy camp to select candidates for elections to the city legislature. Beijing said the vote potentially violated China’s controversial national security law for Hong Kong, that democracy activists feared will be used to eliminate dissent.

The Hong Kong Liaison Office on Tuesday said that Tai’s sacking was “just an act of punishing evil, promoting good and conforming to the people’s will”.

Without naming Tai, the HKU said in a statement that its council had resolved a personnel issue” following a “lengthy”, “stringent” and “impartial” process.

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