The new University of Hong Kong Students’ Union President Althea Suen Hiu-nam has expressed her support for Hong Kong independence and has stated that, as leader of the student body, she would not accept acts of physical harm in resistance against the regime.

Suen and her cabinet, Valiance, assumed office on Monday. She is the successor of Billy Fung Jing-en, whose term was embroiled in controversy following his decision to leak details of a closed-door HKU Council meeting which rejected the appointment of liberal law scholar Johannes Chan.

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The new HKUSU assumed office on Monday. Photo: Facebook via HKUSU page.

During an interview with Commercial Radio on Friday morning, Suen said that political pressure affecting the school has been increasingly felt since the HKU Vice-chancellor debacle, and that there was a serious “mainlandisation” issue on campus. She took on the role because she felt a need to defend the school’s institutional independence and academic freedom.

Suen said that some aspects of localism – such as seeing Hong Kong as their “home”, and wanting to prioritise the interests of Hongkongers and protect the city’s core values – were understandable, and these were also the beliefs of the student union, she said.

“I believe that Hong Kong independence is a viable way out and I do [personally] support it… but it’s not directly related to [the student union would do],” she said.

‘No physical harm’

When asked about her earlier comments on how students besieging the HKU council meeting was not very “radical”, Suen said that such labels do not mean anything, Ming Pao reported. Suen said that the student union merely represents the student body and was not a social activist organisation. As its president, her “bottom line” would be not not to accept, nor lead the union to engage in, any acts that would cause physical harm to others.

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HKUSU president at a Commercial Radio interview. Photo: Commercial Radio Youtube screenshot.

The host asked Suen about the Mong Kok unrest last Monday, during which people were injured. Suen said that although she would not engage in those actions herself, she had empathy with protesters, Commercial Radio reported. “These people have been engaged in [different forms] of resistance for a while now… they believe they were left with no options apart from violence,” she said. The protest broadened people’s imaginations with new methods of resistance, she said, and it also sent a serious warning to the governing regime.

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.