The president of Education University (EdUHK) has called for mutual respect alongside freedom of speech, after signs “congratulating” a government official’s son following his death appeared on campus.

The eldest son of Education Undersecretary Choi Yuk-lin died after falling from a Tsim Sha Tsui flat on Thursday morning. Signs bearing the slogan “Congratulations Choi Yuk-lin’s son on going west” subsequently 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. He said that although the school is still investigating the incident, he had an obligation to take responsibility as the institution’s president.

President of Education University Stephen Cheung. Photo: i-Cable screenshot.

“This behaviour completely oversteps our moral boundary, and is shameful. That the perpetrator of this incident took advantage of a tragic situation and posted offensive messages demonstrates a lack of consideration of others’ feelings, as they sprinkled salt on people’s wounds,” said Cheung.

Cheung said school authorities had used CCTV footage in their investigation. He said that two people were suspected to have put up the signs on the campus’s Democracy Wall, but that the university did not know whether they were students.

Cheung said that if the two people were indeed students, it would be up to the relevant disciplinary committee to decide on the appropriate punishment after a thorough investigation.

Signs saying “Congratulations Choi Yuk-lin’son on going west” appeared on top of other signs protesting the removal of banners advocating independence on Education University’s Democracy Wall. Photo: Chung Kim Wah/Facebook.

In response to concerns raised by the university’s student union that school management would use the incident as an opportunity to curtail students’ right to freedom of expression, Cheung said that the use of the Democracy Wall entailed certain rules.

“We allow freedom of speech. But we expect them [students] to mutually respect each other. This is my bottom line. If you don’t know how to respect each other, how can you enjoy freedom of speech?”

Choi Yuk-lin. File Photo: Stand News.

Choi was appointed education undersecretary in July despite controversy over her pro-Beijing political stance.

Cheung said on Friday that his reaction to the incident would have been the same regardless of the position of the person involved. But online users on discussion forum LIHKG criticised Cheung for blowing the incident out of proportion.

“Originally, the death of a son would have made the rounds on the news for two or three days – it would have eventually faded from public memory. But after holding a press conference, you have now announced it to the world!” said one commenter.

Another said: “Do you think the act of holding a high-profile press conference would bring Choi another round of hurt?”

If you are experiencing negative feelings, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counselling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084. See also: HKFP’s comprehensive guide to mental health services in Hong Kong

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Jun Pang

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.