The Hong Kong College of Technology Institute’s principal has slammed his students for disrespecting the national anthem as they protested against Beijing’s controversial interpretation of the Basic Law during a congregation ceremony.

Principal Chan Cheuk-hay said Saturday that he was “heartbroken and sad” after some 40 students raised banners in protest while the national anthem was being played at the ceremony. He said they had “insulted” the national anthem.

oscar lai
Oscar Lai at the HKCT congregation ceremony. Photo: Oscar Lai, via Facebook.

A dozen students also staged protests as they went onstage to collect their certificates from Chan. A student said: “The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) passed an unanimous vote on the interpretation, meaning they played a part in destroying our rule of law. We oppose the NPCSC interpretation and we vow to defend Hong Kong’s rule of law.”

Activist Oscar Lai of the Demosistō party was among the graduating class. Standing next to Chan, Lai shouted “oppose the NPCSC interpretation” while a security guard tried to escort him off stage.

The activist added that, if raising banners amounted to an insult to the national anthem, Beijing’s ruling would be an “insult to Hongkongers.”

During the ceremony, several parents shouted from their seats in support of Beijing’s ruling. One said: “Kick out the pro-independence dogs.” In Chinese, to call someone a dog is a common insult.

YouTube video

Chan told the students: “If you are affected by wars or natural disasters while traveling abroad, who will help you? There are no other countries like China that would send civil aircrafts to evacuate its people stuck in war zones. Not even Japan. They needed to borrow our civil aircrafts and battleships for evacuation.”

“When I was a kid, I experienced imperialist oppression. When I went outside to play, we children would be bullied and beaten up by ‘gwai jai’ [Western children]. We kept silent until our national anthem was finally played and our regional flag raised,” Chan said.

The literal translation of “gwai jai” is “kids of ghosts,” a common Cantonese slang expression for Caucasian men or children. Some consider the term derogatory.

Activist Joshua Wong responded on social media: “Principal Chan, I know very well that when we are detained while traveling abroad, the Chinese government will not say a word.”

Demosistō joshua wong
Demosistō’s Joshua Wong. File Photo: Cloud.

Last month, Wong was denied entry to Thailand and detained by the Thai authorities, reportedly at the request of China. Customs officers told Wong that he was blacklisted and refused to let him contact his family or legal representatives.

Beijing handed down a ruling on Hong Kong’s mini-constitution earlier this month, after two independence-leaning politicians referred to China as “Chee-na” – an offensive word to some – and displayed a “Hong Kong is not China” flag during the Legislative Council’s swearing-in session.

Critics say that Beijing’s ruling should be rejected as it violated the Basic Law, while pro-Beijing figures welcomed the Chinese government’s attempt to settle the political dispute.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.