The heads of ten universities in Hong Kong have published a joint statement condemning “recent abuses” of free expression on campus and calling Hong Kong independence unconstitutional.

It follows the appearance of pro-independence slogans across university campuses and on student union message boards.

Photo: HKFP remix.

“We treasure freedom of expression, but we condemn its recent abuses. Freedom of expression is not absolute, and like all freedoms it comes with responsibilities,” the statement, published on Friday, said. “All universities undersigned agree that we do not support Hong Kong independence, which contravenes the Basic Law.”

The signatories included the heads of City University, Baptist University, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Lingnan University, the Chinese University, the Education University, Polytechnic University, the University of Science and Technology, the Open University and the University of Hong Kong.

All but two of the institutions listed are funded by the public and fall under the University Grants Committee. The Open University and Hong Kong Shue Yan University are self-funded.

Timothy O’Leary, the head of the University of Hong Kong’s School of Humanities, and chief of concern group HKU Vigilance, questioned the statement on Facebook on Friday: “It would have been nice to know what argument they have for the banners being an ‘abuse’ of freedom of expression.”

Timothy O’Leary. File Photo: Stand News.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has said it will remove pro-independence slogans displayed on campus in order to protect its students and prevent them from breaking the law. City University, the Chinese University and the Education University have also made efforts to remove banners.

Previously, the University of Hong Kong and Baptist University pledged not to remove pro-independence slogans, saying that the message boards were managed by student unions.

On Friday, the chair of the Commission on Youth Lau Ming-wai said that pro-independence messages on campus were “successful low budget productions” which caught media attention, but the public should leave them for the schools to handle.

The Basic Law states that Hong Kong is part of China, but also guarantees the right to “freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration.”

HKFP has contacted Chinese University.

Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.