Dean is demoted after jackdaw claims

June 9, 1995

A highly-respected political and social commentator has been demoted and had his salary cut over allegations that he plagiarised the work of several colleagues, despite a finding that the claims could not be proven.

City University Council unanimously decided to change Joseph Cheng's appointment from that of a dean to a professorship at a reduced salary.

In a statement issued by the university, the council said it had also decided that Professor Cheng, formerly the dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences, would not be considered eligible for a position of responsibility - such as a pro-vice chancellor, dean or head of department - for two years.

He would, however, be allowed to continue teaching in the faculty.

The Council made the decision after hearing the conclusions of an internal City University committee of inquiry and, despite the committee's findings, the allegations of plagiarism could not be proven.

Professor Cheng had earlier admitted copying material without proper acknowledgement from his former teacher at the University of Hong Kong, Norman Miners, for a textbook that he published in 1987.

He had admitted that he was negligent and that he had apologised to Dr Miners.

Professor Cheng also admitted copying material from former colleagues at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Lau Siuo-Kai and Kuan Hsin-chi for a paper that he published in 1984.

The inquiry found that Professor Cheng had no intention of committing plagiarism and the paragraphs he had copied were only introductory material.

But the committee expressed "unease at the lack of sufficient acknowledgement of materials used".

In a university statement, the 30-member council said "such conduct was neither proper nor acceptable for a member of an academic community and, as such, the university must take a serious view of the matter".

After the council meeting, professor Cheng said he would accept its decision and would not appeal.

But various other staff are understood to be upset over the council's decision, believing that it has damaged City University's reputation and that a harder line should have been taken.

The City University case comes after a long-running and bitter dispute over plagiarism between three lecturers at the University of Hong Kong.

In that case, Lam Tai-hing was found guilty of plagiarising the work of two of his colleagues in Hong Kong's law courts but cleared of any dishonourable conduct by the university.

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