The students’ union executive committee of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) resigned and issued an apology in the early hours of Friday, after the government and school criticised the union’s decision to praise the “sacrifice” of the man who killed himself after stabbing a police officer.

The HKU Students’ Union Council passed a motion on Wednesday to “express deep sadness” at the death of Leung Kin-fai, the 50-year-old who committed suicide after attacking and seriously injuring the officer on July 1, the 24th anniversary of the city’s handover.

Charles Kwok Wing-ho (middle), president of the University of Hong Kong Student Union. Photo: Stand News.

“The Union Council expresses its deep sadness at the death of Mr Leung Kin-fai; offers its sympathy and condolences to his family and friends; appreciates his sacrifice to Hong Kong,” the motion read.

The content of the motion was “seriously inappropriate,” and that the union had no intention to encourage any illegal behaviour, Kwok Wing-ho, president of the student union, said in a press conference held in the early hours of Friday morning.

“This [apology and resignation] is an action we conceived ourselves, because we think that we have let down citizens’ expectations, and we would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the school mates who voted for us, students of HKU, and for letting down society’s and the public’s expectation,” said Kwok.

The council’s decision to revoke the motion came hours after the Security Bureau in a statement on Thursday condemned the council, saying it was “no different from supporting and encouraging terrorism, which goes against humanity and the people.”

HKU Main Building
The University of Hong Kong’s Main Building. Photo: HKU.

The government said the students should feel “ashamed” as they had “failed the expectations of their parents, society and the university.” The council’s decision to offer condolences and describe Leung’s action as a “sacrifice” was “confusing right and wrong” and attempting to “deceive members of the public.”

“These words and deeds will only trigger more hatred, send out a severely wrong message to society and make more people imitate the terrorist act of the attacker, thereby seriously endangering public safety,” the statement read.

Union’s website disappears

The union council’s website, along with its Facebook page, were no longer accessible. The university also issued a statement on Thursday condemning the decision to “use the name of the HKUSU Council to whitewash violence and violent attacks.”

police stabbing sogo
Photo: StudioIncendo.

“The portrayal of the stabbing of a police officer and the suicide of the attacker as ‘sacrifice’ sends a totally wrong message to society,” the university statement read.

Meanwhile, HKU Council chair Arthur Li told the SCMP that he would welcome a national security investigation, and said that the management of HKU should look into whether members of the student union should be expelled. The university later told HKFP that it was not aware of anyone at the university reporting the incident to the authorities.

HKU’s Club Associations, including Cultural Association, Independent Clubs Association, and Sports Association, said in a statement released on Friday that the group “did not participate in the discussion” of the motion in the meeting on Wednesday.

“Some representatives of Clubs Associations were absent and did not participate in the voting process, while the remaining representatives would like to apologise for their failure to be politically neutral due to misunderstanding,” the statement read.

“We feel sorry for the incident on the 1st July, and condemn any act against public safety. The Clubs Associations will continue to serve our clubs while maintaining political neutrality.”

Founded in 1912, the union has over 17, 000 full members.

The heads of the councils of the eight universities subsidised by the University Grants Committee issued a statement on Friday “to condemn speech and behaviours inciting hate and beautifying violence,” RTHK reported.

The new security chief Chris Tang said at his first Legislative Council meeting following his promotion that people who sympathise with the attacker and those who attempt to trivialise the attack should be condemned and treated as pariahs.

💡If you are in need of support, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counselling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084. See also: HKFP’s comprehensive guide to mental health services in Hong Kong.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.