The Hong Kong Baptist University has asked two students involved in a protest against the school’s Mandarin language requirement to issue an apology within ten days and remove videos relating to the event from social media platforms.

Chinese medicine student Andrew Chan Lok-hang and Baptist University Student Union President Lau Tsz-kei were suspended for eight days and one term respectively after they participated in an eight-hour protest in January at the school’s Language Centre.

Andrew Chan Lok-hang Lau Tsz-kei
Andrew Chan Lok-hang (L) and Lau Tsz-kei (R). File photo: In-Media.

The duo appealed against the decision earlier, but Chan was informed by the school administration Thursday that their appeal had been rejected. They were ordered to apologise in writing to the Language Centre within ten working days.

According to Hong Kong Language Studies, a Facebook page run by Chan, the university’s Student Affairs Committee rejected the appeal by a 10:1 vote on the basis that the “original hearings had been conducted fairly.” The committee consists of 14 members, most of them teaching staff.

The page said Chan had been “strongly advised” to remove all videos relating to the protests uploaded to social media, or the school might file a lawsuit against him for violating the privacy of the staff members shown in the clips.

Chan told RTHK Friday that he will not apologise to the centre and that he expects not being able to graduate as planned.

baptist university mandarin test row
Standoff between students and university staff. Photo: BUSU, via Facebook.

The standoff in January was triggered by some students’ dissatisfaction with the university’s graduation requirement that all local students – except those whose first language is not Chinese – must meet certain Mandarin proficiency levels.

They must pass the Language Centre’s Mandarin test if they wish to be excused from taking a language course offered by the centre. Overseas and mainland Chinese students are exempt from this requirement.

The centre ran the first round of tests between last October and November. But students expressed outrage after the results were released in January, revealing that 70 per cent of those who sat the test failed.

A video later emerged showing Lau uttering a swearword while speaking with staff members. Following the row, Chan cut short his internship in China after receiving threats.

YouTube video

The two students apologised to the staff members at the centre following the incident. The school later suspended the duo.

More than 700 alumni of the university signed a petition protesting the school’s decision, demanding that the school suspend the implementation of the Mandarin language requirement and follow up with the matter of Chan being threatened.

Around 200 attended a protest in support of the pair, as counter-protesters held placards saying that Mandarin is the “pride of Chinese nationals.”

hkbu baptist university protest
The protest. File Photo: In-Media.

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said at the time that “respecting teachers is very important and is the most basic requirement.”

But education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said Baptist University Vice Chancellor Roland Chin had failed to explain what standards the school used to justify the immediate suspension. He said the students should be given the opportunity to appeal and defend their cases.

In February, the school lifted the suspension a week after the decision, while Chin said the Language Centre’s staff had accepted the students’ apologies.

SMALL hong kong free press hkfp logo

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.