The Chinese University of Hong Kong Student Union has criticised the school’s decision to remove pro-independence banners from campus, after management falsely claimed they were illegal.
The banners were spotted at multiple locations at the school on Monday – the start of the new school year. However, they were removed by the school within half an hour. A new banner appeared at the Benjamin Franklin Centre Cultural Plaza – which is managed by the student union – on Tuesday, but was also subsequently removed.
On Tuesday, the secretary for the Staff-Student Centres Management Committee sent a letter to the president of the student union, saying that the discussion of independence “violated Hong Kong’s laws and also violated the school’s constant stance of absolutely opposing Hong Kong independence.”
“While the student union may set its own regulations for the management of various facilities, students must also follow the overall policies of the institution,” it said.
There is no law in Hong Kong forbidding the discussion of independence.
In response, CUSU said that it strongly regretted the university’s forced removal of the banners and its suppression of freedom of expression. It requested clarification on which Hong Kong laws had been violated by the banner, and urged school authorities to respect its autonomy in the management of the plaza.
“We cannot understand the reason why the slogan ‘HK INDEPENDENCE’ is so sensitive, since the University could never stand alone from the society, and it is our responsibilities as well educated citizens to be aware of social issues,” it said.
“The University, as a higher education institution promoting whole-person development, should be open-minded towards the academic discussion on the future of our city and our home.”
On Tuesday, video footage showed a female student attempting to take down posters advocating independence from the Democracy Wall, which is managed by the student union.
“If you’re talking about democracy, you can put it up, I can put it off,” she said, alternating between English and Putonghua. “You stand for the students but I am aware of the students and I don’t agree. It’s my school as well.”
The student left the scene after being confronted by representatives from CUSU who said that while she could post messages expressing her disagreement, she could not remove existing signage.
On Tuesday, similar pro-independence banners appeared at Hong Kong University (HKU) and Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK).
At HKU, a sign saying “Hong Kong Independence: Support CUHK Student Union” was posted on the Democracy Wall outside the main library.
At EdUHK, the student union posted a banner bearing the slogan “Hong Kong Independence” at the university’s Central Plaza. Signs bearing the same slogan and the words “Support CUHK Student Union” also appeared on the campus’s Democracy Wall.
EdUHKSU said that its banner disappeared less than an hour after being put up. It said that it had previously stopped a Putonghua-speaking woman from taking down and destroying the banner, but that she had subsequently left the scene.
“We denounce the woman’s actions. Students have the right to express their opinions, but even if they do not agree, to destroy others’ property due to a difference in political opinion is barbaric,” said the union.
On Wednesday afternoon, CUSU will host a discussion event with Hong Kong National Party spokesperson Jason Chow, former union presidents Ernie Chow and Tommy Cheung, and co-founder of localist party Hong Kong Indigenous Ray Wong on the topic “Refuse Political Censorship at Chinese University, Defend Academic Freedom.” Lawmaker Eddie Chu and former lawmaker Wong Yuk-man will also attend.