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Hong Kong students and professors rally for academic freedom

Students, teachers, and university staff have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in protest of alleged interference from Beijing. Previously, a liberal scholar was blocked from a senior post at Hong Kong University.

More than 1,000 people turned out in Hong Kong on Friday for the second rally in a week over what they say is undue Chinese central government influence on the liberal Hong Kong University (HKU).

"We are here tonight to express our rage, our doubts and to explore what we can do next," said Joseph Chan Cho Wai, a professor of politics at HKU.

The latest protests started after the university's governing council rejected prominent human rights advocate Johannes Chan in a vote for the role of HKU pro-vice chancellor. Chan is a former HKU law school dean and a close ally of Benny Tai, one of the key figures in last year's

pro-democracy rallies

in Hong Kong. Many students and staff believe that the HKU council is controlled by pro-Beijing members.

"In this case there was clearly political interference," 19-year-old Althea Suen told the AFP news agency. "The people there (on the council) have the majority. But we students are watching them."

Some of the protesters on Friday wore T-shirts with the Martin Luther King Jr. quote: "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

'Storm' on the way

On Thursday, academics from Hong Kong higher education institutions launched a new group - the Scholars' Alliance for Academic Freedom - tasked to monitor academic freedoms and examine any violations.

"We are aware of the storm and the darkness that awaits us; we have no choice but to face it head on and walk against the wind," the organization said in a statement.

Last year, Beijing's insistence on pre-screening candidates in the 2017 election for the semi-autonomous Hong Kong region's leader sparked 79-days of street protests. Beijing, however, refused to budge.

The UK returned its former colony to China in 1997, under a

deal that guaranteed

that the Asian metropolis would keep core personal and commercial freedoms for the next 50 years.

dj/se (Reuters, AFP)

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