The Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), along with the student unions of eight universities, will discuss the possibility of class boycotts and campus “occupations” should their request to amend the universities’ laws be refused, Deputy Secretary-General of HKFS Alan Wong Ka-fai has said.

The HKFS and the student unions may jointly organise a referendum in February after collecting views from students and staff, Wong said.

The referendum would focus on the issue of whether there is a need to abolish the automatic appointment of the Chief Executive as the chancellor of Hong Kong universities. It will also propose a change in the composition of the governance structure, so that the proportion of teacher and student representatives on the governing bodies of each school – namely the University Council and University Court – is increased, RTHK reported.

hkfs wong ka fai
Wong Ka-fai of HKFS. Photo: RTHK.

A referendum would only be binding upon student unions and, although it could be used to put pressure on the government, the chances of the ordinance being amended were not high, Wong said. Thus, the HKFS and the universities’ student unions would also be discussing follow-up actions such as class boycott and ‘Occupy campus’. Wong said that the move to organise a referendum was in response to the increasing threat of political interference in the academic field of Hong Kong.

According to Wong, the student unions that would be taking part in the referendum include those from the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Lingnan University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Institute of Education, and Open University of Hong Kong.

University of Hong Kong HKU
University of Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia.

The City University of Hong Kong would not be taking part because their student union had been earlier overthrown, but Wong said that they will keep in touch with the relevant representatives.

Last week, the Students’ Union of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology published an open letter to the President of the University, asking for the amendment of the University Ordinance and criticising the automatic appointment of the Chief Executive as Chancellor of the University.

hku academic freedom
Photo: HKFP.

On Friday, around 3,000 students, alumni and teachers gathered at the University of Hong Kong to protest against perceived political interference in the city’s education system.

The various calls to defend academic freedom came after the HKU Council decided to vote down the appointment of a pro-democracy professor, Johannes Chan, as HKU’s pro-vice-chancellor despite the recommendation of a search committee.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.