Students at the Baptist University will hold a march and a class boycott in protest of the school’s decision to suspend two students after a row over a controversial Mandarin language requirement.
Last week, the Baptist University Students’ Union (BUSU) held an eight-hour protest at school’s Language Centre. The centre runs a newly-introduced Mandarin language test which students must pass if they wish to be exempted from enrolling on a language course. Mandarin language proficiency is a requirement for students to graduate.
After the first round of tests revealed that 70 per cent of those who sat the test failed, students demanded talks with the administration. However, the demands were overshadowed by a video clip showing Student Union President Lau Tsz-kei uttering profanities while speaking with staff members.
The university on Wednesday announced that two students had been temporarily suspended until the disciplinary procedures were complete. The students will not be able to attend classes or exams, but they will not be banned from the school campus.
The university’s vice-chancellor, Roland Chin, said that the students made the teachers feel “insulted” and “threatened.” Chinese medicine student Andrew Chan Lok-hang — who cut short his internship in China after receiving threats — and BUSU Chairperson Lau Tsz-kei later confirmed that they were the students who had been suspended.
Two student representatives on the Baptist University’s Senate are initiating a class boycott starting on Friday at 1:30pm. They are demanding that the school withdraw their decision to suspend the students and that Chin apologise to the students.
The university’s student union is also organising a gathering and march from 2pm on Friday, to protest the school’s “abuse of procedure” and suspension of two students without notice.
Slogans appeared on the democracy walls at University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong on Wednesday evening, in a show of support for the Baptist University students. One banner also bore profanity directed at Roland Chin.
On Thursday, a wall near Hong Kong Baptist University Wai Hang Sports Centre was also found to be spray painted with the words “No to Mandarin,” local media reported.
Chinese and English are the official languages in Hong Kong. Cantonese is commonly spoken in Hong Kong, as opposed to Mandarin in mainland China and Taiwan.
Demosisto’s Agnes Chow, who is a year four student at Baptist University, said she felt “extremely angry” at the school’s decision to suspend the two students.
Chow said that the students have protested the Mandarin graduation requirement for a long time and that – after many rounds of discussions – they finally ended up at the Language Centre demanding to speak to management.
“We’ve tried many ways of expressing our views, and in exchange for that, the school superficially redirected attention to the actions of the students – completely ignoring the students’ opinions.”
Chow said that the use of profanity by students should not be the focus of the controversy. The school turned a blind eye to the requests of the majority of students to withdraw the Mandarin language requirement and did not provide any reasonable explanation for the severe punishment against students, she added.