Chief Executive Carrie Lam has issued a strongly-worded statement condemning “improper remarks” made on university campuses relating to Hong Kong independence and the death of an official’s son. She called for university administrators “to take appropriate action as soon as possible” and for society to “join forces to rectify such abuse of the freedom of speech.”

Lam’s comments came amid controversy over banners that have appeared in different university campuses in Hong Kong, with some advocating Hong Kong independence and others commenting on the death of Under Secretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin’s son on Thursday.

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, Lam said she was shocked to learn that “extremely callous and insulting remarks” were posted on students notice boards at the Education University of Hong Kong, on the passing of Choi’s son.

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Carrie Lam. File photo: In-Media.

Following the incident, signs bearing the slogan “Congratulations Choi Yuk-lin’s son on going west” appeared on the campus’s Democracy Wall, on top of banners supporting freedom of expression and Hong Kong independence. At a press conference on Friday, EdUHK President Stephen Cheung said that he was angry and upset over the signs.

Lam said, “I deeply regret and condemn such behaviour. The remarks are entirely disrespectful, against the moral values of society and cold-blooded.”

“The whole community are shocked, grieved, and enraged by the appearance of such remarks in a tertiary institution in Hong Kong.” Lam added that she had contacted Education University chief Stephen Cheung to express her deep concern over the matter.

Lam also condemned the “continued appearance” of remarks advocating Hong Kong independence on slogans displayed across campuses in Hong Kong.

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Pro-independence notices at HKU. File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“‘Hong Kong independence’ runs against ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ the Basic Law as well as the overall and long term interest of society. I condemn the continued appearance of such remarks on university campuses, which is in violation of our country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests,” Lam said.

Lam said that freedom of speech was not without limits and “academic freedom and autonomy of tertiary institutions are not excuses for the advocacy of fallacies,” the statement continued, adding that the remarks “overstepped the bottom-line of society” and “the public will have their own fair judgement.”

Lam also urged the university administration to take appropriate action as soon as possible, and expressed hope that different sectors of society would join forces to “rectify such abuse of the freedom of speech” to safeguard core values of a civic society and defend the moral standard in Hong Kong.

According to Article 27 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong residents enjoy freedom of speech and assembly.

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Karen cheung hong kong

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.