The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has taken down all protest posters and other material from a “Democracy Wall” and student council premises, days after student union leaders stepped down following fierce criticism from the Security Bureau.
Around 20 university employees were deployed to clear the displays at the Pok Fu Lam campus on Sunday morning, CampusTV and the Undergrad reported.
Removed posters included those displaying pro-democracy slogans, including “Hongkongers, resist,” and criticism of the university management: “HKU sucks up to the Chinese Communist Party.”
The walls of the former student union offices and the “Democracy Wall” outside its main library were stripped bare by noon. Dean of Student Affairs Samson Tse was present for the operation, according to the student media reports.
The material that has been removed would be handled in consultation with the student union, the dean told campus media.
Tse said the operation was the result of the university’s decision in late April to sever ties with its student union, saying it would “enforce management rights” over its premises and cut all financial support.
In its announcement at the time, the university cited “legal risks” and what it called an increasingly politicised student union which had been spreading “political propaganda” on campus.
HKFP has reached out to the university for comment.
Student leaders step down
Student council leaders resigned last Friday after increasing pressure from both the government and the university over a separate incident.
The student body had been strongly criticised by the Security Bureau and university management over a statement mourning the “sacrifice” of a man who killed himself after stabbing a police officer on July 1. The union later retracted the statement and issued an apology.
There are fears that academic freedom and free speech are being stifled on campuses under Hong Kong’s national security law, which was imposed by Beijing in response to months of pro-democracy protests and unrest which authorities largely blamed on student-age protesters.
Before its leaders stepped down on Friday, the HKU student union had lambasted the university over plans to implement national security education, accusing it of compromising its institutional autonomy.
Last Friday, local media reported that veteran pro-democracy figure Johannes Chan had stepped down from his post as adjunct law professor at HKU at the end of his contract.