Local students are advocating for Hong Kong independence because they cannot compete with mainland students academically and hold a “loser” mentality, the University of Hong Kong’s governing council chairman Arthur Li has said.

Li’s comments came after independence slogans appeared on university campuses at the start of the school year. The heads of ten universities issued a joint statement last Friday, condemning the “recent abuses” of freedom of expression, while some institutions removed the messages.

On TVB’s Straight Talk on Monday, Li said: “Why do people still want Hong Kong independence? It’s very simple. Our young people in the university cannot compete with our mainland students in terms of scholarships, in terms of prizes – mainland students are winning all the way.”

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File Photo: Arthur Li.

Li said that the students are calling for independence because they wish to “run away” rather than improve themselves. “It’s basically the mentality of losers,” Li continued.

Li also said that pro-independence banners were “seditious” and against the Basic Law, and should not be considered academic discussions. He added that the school has a responsibility to tell students what is right, and said he believed that the school should remove the banners.

He further commented that the mainland has a close relationship with Hong Kong and is the source of the city’s food and water. Therefore, it was meaningless to discuss Hong Kong independence, he said.

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

On recent calls to remove Occupy leader Benny Tai from the university, Li said that Tai did not invite students to take part in the protests in his classes, and could not be said to have violated the school’s regulations. Li also said that the university was independent and would not be influenced by external forces.

At a rally calling for Tai to be sacked on Sunday, pro-Beijing individuals also called for independence advocates to be “killed.”

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.