Lam renounced the fellowship herself, claiming that Wolfson had "deemed" her to be "deviant of the principles for academic freedom and freedom of speech" Bonni Jee

Carrie Lam renounced her Honorary Fellowship from Wolfson College yesterday, following a request to the Executive Council of Hong Kong to remove this title from her declaration of interests.

Lam made the announcement on her Facebook page yesterday, at around 11 pm Hong Kong time, stating that she was “disappointed” with the College’s “besmirching without factual basis and a reliance on hearsay” regarding Wolfson’s inquiry into her fellowship.

Wolfson College has released a statement today confirming Lam’s resignation in response to the College’s inquiry.

The statement revealed that the College “was due to consider Mrs Lam’s Honorary Fellowship early next month but will no longer do so”.

In the Facebook post, which was written in Chinese on her official Facebook page, she claimed that Wolfson College President Jane Clarke had sent her a letter “stating that the College deems me deviant of the principles for academic freedom and freedom of speech”, citing her involvement in acts such as punishing scholars who are critical of the government, banning students from chanting slogans, and implementing national law extraterritorially.

The issue of Lam’s fellowship was included in the reserved minutes of a governing body meeting on Wednesday 8th July, but the college had not yet made any announcement on the outcome of the discussion.

The letter “offered [her] a chance of reply, or else would rescind the honorary title,” Lam alleged.

Lam asserted that she wanted to “laugh it off” upon receiving the letter, but decided to defend herself “to defend the dignity of the Hong Kong government and the Chief Executive”.

On the College’s accusations, Lam rebuffed that they were “unfounded”, and criticised Wolfson for “claiming that there is sufficient evidence, but did not put forward any proof”. Lam further criticised the College for using terms such as “we hear” and “it was reported” when reporting their concerns.

Translation: Carrie Lam's Renouncement Post

Following my recent declaration that I will cancel my US visa, I have also renounced my Honorary Fellowship at Wolfson College of the University of Cambridge.

This matter arose as I was elected as an Honorary Fellow by the former President of this College, which I attended as a part of the Hong Kong government’s programme in the eighties, back in early 2017 when I won the Chief Executive election. The former President thought that this would strengthen future cooperation between Hong Kong, the University of Cambridge, and the College. I gladly accepted the fellowship then.

However, since last year’s “anti-extradition bill controversy”, the current President has been pressured by some British politicians, media, and some organisations (likely persons related to “the international front”, as it’s coined by local anti-government organisations). She has written to tell me that there are people demanding the rescindment of my Honorary Fellowship.

I personally have never valued these empty titles, but in order to let the College grasp the truth in Hong Kong, I wrote back to the President in detailed explanation last year. However, the incident did not die down then. The President wrote to me last week, saying that the College deems me deviant of the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech, as I have punished scholars who have criticised the government, stopped students from singing and chanting slogans on campus, implemented extraterritorial national security laws, etc. She was offering me a chance of reply then, or else the College would rescind the honorary title.

Regarding these “unfounded” accusations, the President said that there was sufficient evidence on one hand, but did not put forward any proof. On the contrary, she admitted that they "have heard" [we hear] or that “it was reported” on incidents about me. On these ridiculous and baseless claims, I wanted to laugh it off, but to defend the dignity of the Hong Kong government and the Chief Executive, I wrote back in refutation again yesterday, stating facts such as that universities in Hong Kong enjoy academic freedom and independence, the students were arrested as they broke the law, and Britain’s national security law has the same extraterritorial clause.

I expressed my disappointment towards the College’s besmirching without factual basis and a reliance on hearsay. Henceforth, it is difficult to convince myself to maintain any connection with Wolfson College. I therefore renounce my honorary title as well.

Even though an unhappy incident like this happened, Cambridge is still a famous institution that many students dream to attend, and the Cambridge as poet Xu Zhimo has written about is still a part of the fond memories of my family and I!

#UniversityOfCambridge #WolfsonCollege #laughitoff #CarrieLam #CarrieLam

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As a response, Lam maintained that universities in Hong Kong enjoy academic freedom and independence, many students are arrested as they broke the law, and that Britain’s national security law is also extraterritorial in nature.

Lam concluded that “it is difficult to convince myself to maintain any connection with Wolfson College”.

The Governing Body and the Fellowship

The College statues state that the Governing Body may remove an Honorary Fellowship if there is “grave cause” regarding “any person on whom it has previously conferred such a Fellowship”.

The Governing Body is composed of College Fellows, three student representatives elected by the Wolfson College Student Association and is chaired by the President. It is normal procedure for the President to also invite two Emeritus Fellows, two Senior Members, two members of staff and one College Research Associate to attend Governing Body meetings as ‘observers’.

Last month, Wolfson College President Jane Clarke announced that the College is “deeply concerned by recent events in Hong Kong following the enactment of the National Security Law” and expressed commitment to “the protection of human rights and the freedom of expression of all its members”.

The National Security Law

Hong Kong’s National Security Law criminalises sweeping offences of secession, subversion, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign forces, with life imprisonment as the highest punishment. The law is extraterritorial as events and people outside Hong Kong can be prosecuted, as stipulated in its Article 38.

Since the introduction of the law, pro-democracy authors have been removed from bookstores, whilst the Hong Kong Police have been granted a wide range of new powers. Officers are now able to secretly monitor suspects, take down online material which they believe breaches the new Security Law and confiscate property.

Prominent activist Agnes Chow, newspaper magnate Jimmy Lai, and freelance ITV journalist Wilson Li have been arrested for collusion with foreign powers under the National Security Law, whilst an arrest warrant has been issued on six overseas-based activists, including Nathan Law and US citizen Samuel Chu.

The continuation of Lam’s position at the College has been widely questioned in recent days. Writing for The Independent, Andy Martin, a former Fellow at King’s, described the situation as a ‘farce’.

Lam’s relationship with Wolfson

Prior to the announcement in July that the College is ‘deeply concerned’ with events in Hong Kong, the College had repeatedly expressed commitment to the fellowship.

In November 2018, Varsity reported student discontent with Lam’s fellowship. An open letter authored by Hong Kong student groups argued that the fellowship was a ‘misstep to be corrected’. Wolfson College insisted in response that there were “no plans to revisit that decision”.

At that time, the College had cited the Chief Executive’s career as a reason for the Fellowship, explaining that, in addition to Lam’s former studies at the College, it was “her many achievements in the Hong Kong administration, including being the first woman elected Chief Executive, that led to her fellowship”.

Lam attended Wolfson in 1982, completing “a programme for senior government administrators”.

Pressure on the College increased in November 2019 when three British lawmakers wrote to the University’s Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Clarke calling for Lam’s removal. Writing that “Lam’s combination of incompetence and aggressive approach” was the cause of protests at the time, the letters’ authors argued that they “cannot see how it is tenable for Cambridge to sustain this honorary fellowship”.


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In the same month, a protest calling for the removal was held. Over 170 people, including students, alumni, and citizens demanded Lam’s removal on King’s Parade, later marching to the College.

Last December, Clarke further defended Lam’s fellowship at the College in an email which was sent to Wolfson students. Her fellowship, which was conferred in 2017, was justified on the grounds of her career as a civil servant in Hong Kong “both before and after the handover” in 1997.

Students were told, in an email sent on 17th December, that the College was “concerned with the situation faced by all citizens of Hong Kong” and that unrest threatens “the values of respect, trust and mutual understanding… espouse[d] in College.”

At this point, Clarke had “written to Mrs Lam to express this concern.”

However, students were told that the Governing Body “has not decided to take any action, at this time”.

Soon after the implementation of the National Security Law, the British government committed to creating a new immigration route for British National Overseas citizens, to move to the UK to work and study, and offers an opportunity to apply for full citizenship. Similar proposals were announced by the Australian government, which has also suspended its extradition treaty with the city.

Politically appointed officials of Hong Kong, including the Chief Executive, are mandated to declare their interests through the Executive Council website. Such interests include official ties with private companies, patronage and memberships of boards, committees, and organisations, as well as private property ownership.

Lam’s voluntary request for the removal of her title on the directory suggests an official resignation from the role.

The Chief Executive is also currently sanctioned by the US for “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes.”

This is not the only college honorary fellowship to be renounced voluntarily in recent months. David Starkey resigned from an honorary fellowship at Fitzwilliam College in response to accusations of racism regarding comments made in a television interview.

Wolfson College has been contacted for comment.