The University of Hong Kong twice contacted the police in relation to an in incident at a chaotic HKU governing council meeting in January: actions that an HKU student group described as revenge against the then-student union president, Billy Fung jing-en. Fung was arrested this week for his involvement in the council meeting incident.

On January 26, students surrounded the meeting chaired by newly-appointed council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung. Fung was accused of shouting “Do not let him go! Do not let Arthur Li go! Take him down! Take him down!” outside the meeting venue of the council. Those actions led to the charge of criminal intimidation or disorderly conduct in a public place alternately.

Arthur Li being surrounded.
Arthur Li being surrounded.

Fung also faces one count of criminal damage and one count of attempted forcible entry. He was arrested on Wednesday night and appeared in court on Friday

Security guards at the meeting venue in January called the police when the incident occurred. Citing the university’s executive vice-president Steven J. Cannon after a meeting, current student union president Althea Suen Hiu-nam said the secretariat of the school called the police again in February, upon the request of members of the council, and with the authorisation of the school’s senior management team.

Suen said according to Cannon, some of the members of the senior management team have given statements to the police, and submitted a report to the police requesting investigation of the incident.

She urged the school not give further information to the police. “The school has no obligation to provide CCTV footage or other evidence to the police,” she said.

Suen said it was not appropriate for the school to report the case to the police, that the university – as an educational institution – should not see student protests as criminal offences.

The senior management team includes president Peter Mathieson, seven vice-presidents, the registrar and the director of finance. Mathieson described the incident at the time as “mob rule” .

Althea Suen Billy Fung
Althea Suen and Billy Fung.

A statement from HKU said “A judicial process is under way and it would be inappropriate for the university to comment further.”

The Hong Kong University Students’ Union issued a statement on Friday supporting Fung.

“[T]he current university authorities have forgone their integrity and the aim of education to cling to the powerful, allowing universities to become a political tool and the higher education to fall because of their moral bankruptcy,” it said.

The union said it was “obviously a revenge” directed against Fung as only he was charged out of dozens of people who joined the protest.

“The university authorities may believe that we will submit out of fear after this incident, but we say eloquently that we shall never back down. Filled with rage and having certainly no fear, we shall stand with Billy until the truth defeats the power,” it added.

The University of Hong Kong Alumni Concern Group said Arthur Li should bear the “biggest responsibility” for causing the chaos as he did not explain the developments after the meeting to students, alumni, and members of the public.

“The students there were asking for conversation and explanation. We believe they did not have the intent to intimidate or damage the university’s facilities. The school could handle the damage caused by the incident using existing procedures of the university,” it said in a statement.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students and the student union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong also criticised the school for suppressing its students.

Fung denied all charges at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Friday. Outside court, he thanked those who supported him, and said the most important issue was to help other students who may face a similar situation as him.

He also said the school’s Centre of Development and Resources for Students has asked him whether he needed assistance. He said he believed the court will have a fair judgment.

Fung was released on bail for HK$10,000, and a pre-trial review was scheduled on September 21.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.