Hong Kong Polytechnic University is guilty of “systemic unfairness” and should reverse the penalties imposed on four student protesters, supporters at a campus rally said on Thursday.

The student union organisers said the event drew a crowd of around 400. Former student union leader Lam Wing-hang, who was given a one-year suspension, said the school was imposing “white terror” but urged Hong Kong university students not to lose heart.

Lam Wing-hang. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Besides Lam, the university last Friday also sanctioned masters’ student Gerald Ho, as well as student leader Owan Li and Hazel Cheng. Ho was expelled and permanently banned from enrolment, while Li and Cheng received community service orders of 120 and 60 hours respectively.

In October, around ten students confronted the school’s executives after negotiations broke down over how to manage the campus bulletin board, known as the “democracy wall.” The school had taken control of the board from students after the appearance of messages supporting Hong Kong independence.

During the confrontation at the executives’ offices, multiple students and security personnel fell on the ground, which the school later condemned as “unruly behaviour.” The university also said the students blockaded two school executives in their office.

No appeal mechanism

The Thursday rally started at around 7:30pm, after bad weather forced students to relocate to the university’s covered amphitheatre nicknamed “Logo Square.”

Supporters gather at Polytechnic University at a rally on Thursday. Photo: inmediahk.net.

The student union said the school’s decision – which was made by a faculty-led Student Discipline Committee – was the product of an “unfair system” and called for reform.

The student disciplinary system at Polytechnic University is the only one among Hong Kong universities that does not allow appeals. Students were also denied legal representation or assistance from a lawyer.

Lam said that, as the student union leader at the time, he could not back down on students’ rights. He condemned the school for spreading “white terror” but said he was not regretful or afraid.

“I hope that everyone studying at Polytechnic University or other universities will not be afraid,” he added.

Gerald Ho. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Expelled student Ho said that the university executives were “bootlickers” and accomplices of the Chinese Communist Party. He also led the crowd in chanting slogans denouncing Kaizer Lau, a Polytechnic University councillor who previously criticised the students’ behaviour as “triad-like.”

Ho added that the incident had caused him to fall out with his family, and he was starting to suffer from emotional disorders.

In a statement, Polytechnic University said that the incident had nothing to do with free speech. The university respects the different opinions on the incident, and is supportive of free speech as long as students express their views peacefully and rationally, a spokesperson said.

It also condemned the students’ protest in October as “violent” and “obnoxious.”

The student union said after the event that it had gathered around 3,000 signatures for a petition to the school, but could not confirm if any further action was planned.

Supporters of the four penalised students write words of encouragement. Photo: inmediahk.net.

The two-hour rally was also attended by student union representatives from other schools, including the Chinese University, City University and Hang Seng University.

Some of those attending also brought Hong Kong independence flags, and a large banner supporting independence was seen on the side of a school building before the rally.

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.