University of Hong Kong Nixes Student Union After Leader's 'Anger'

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam calls on the police and university to follow up despite the withdrawal of a statement and the resignation of union committee members.
By Gigi Lee, Emily Chan and Chan Yun Nam
University of Hong Kong Nixes Student Union After Leader's 'Anger' Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam is shown at a press conference at government headquarters in a July 6, 2021 photo.

Senior management at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) on Tuesday derecognized the student union after the city's leader Carrie Lam called for further action over last week's motion on the suicide of a man who attacked a police officer.

"It was enraging that the Hong Kong University student union unanimously passed a motion offering condolences on such a cold-blooded attack, as if the rioter who did it had sacrificed himself for Hong Kong," Lam told reporters.

"I am furious about this in my capacity as chief executive, as the chancellor of Hong Kong U, and as an ordinary citizen of Hong Kong," she said. "I feel ashamed that our university has such a student union, and that so many students have acted in this way."

She called on HKU and the police to "follow up" on the matter, despite a public apology by the union, the withdrawal of the statement, and the resignations of four committee members.

The HKU responded by hitting out with condemnation of the "serious misconduct" of the union, which it accused of "blatantly whitewashing violence, challenging the moral bottom line of our society, and damaging the reputation and interests of the entire HKU community."

"The University announces that it no longer recognizes the current role of the HKUSU (as an independent registered association) on campus," the university said in a statement on its website.

It said the university would launch its own probe into the matter, and take action against the students concerned.

Dire consequences

Former HKU student union leader Kwok Wing-ho told RFA on Wednesday that the government and HKU are looking to destroy the union, and that the consequences for the students involved could be "dire," if the national security police get involved.

"It's pretty despicable that they want to carry on with this witch-hunt despite the fact that the union has long since withdrawn the statement, and the committee members have also resigned," Kwok said.

"I am worried about the possible [consequences] they could face, including expulsion from the university," he said.

He said that if the university starts a new student union, it will likely be filled with students from mainland China or those with connections with the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The union's student council on July 8 passed a motion expressing condolences for the suicide of Leung Kin-fai, a 50-year-old Hong Kong man who died after knifing a policeman and stabbing himself outside the Sogo department store on July 1.

The South China Morning Post, which is owned by mainland Chinese company Alibaba, quoted university leader Arthur Li as saying he would "welcome" a national security investigation into the motion.

Academic freedom threatened

One year after the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong, academic freedom is on the wane, students and faculty told RFA in recent interviews.

Staff on the University of Hong Kong (HKU) campus tore down posters and messages left on the university's "democracy walls," student publications Campus TV and Undergrad reported on Sunday.

Photos posted to social media showed posters bearing the words "Resist, Hongkongers!" and "never forgive the Hong Kong police," being ripped from walls.

A draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020 bans words and deeds deemed subversive or secessionist, or any activities linked to overseas groups, as "collusion with foreign powers," including public criticism of the Hong Kong government and the CCP, on pain of life imprisonment.

It also bans words deemed to promote or justify acts of "terrorism."

The trial of Tong Ying-kit, the first defendant to stand trial for "terrorism" and "inciting secession" under the law, after he rode a motorbike while flying a flag bearing the banned slogan "Free Hong Kong! Revolution Now!", continued in Hong Kong on Wednesday before three judges hand-picked by Lam's administration, and no jury.

Meanwhile, authorities have begun distributing a textbook on the national security law to kindergartens in the city that was selected for them by Chinese education minister Chen Baosheng.

A video circulating on social media showed Hong Kong kindergarteners carrying out a highly choreographed flag-raising ceremony in the manner of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) daily display on Tiananmen Square.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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