Seven members of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council have urged the ruling body to reverse its decision to ban dozens of students from campus pending a police investigation into the university’s embattled student union, and to deal with the matter according to relevant regulations.
In an open letter on Thursday the group denounced the council’s decision, which did not follow regular disciplinary procedures, as “improper according to legal principles.”
The council decided during an emergency meeting on Wednesday to bar 32 students involved in the passing of a declaration which mourned the death of a man who committed suicide after stabbing a police officer on July 1.
In its decision, it had described the campus ban as an “immediate risk containment measure,” citing “serious legal and reputational risks.”
“As members of the council, we believe this decision is improper according to legal principles. By not hearing from the students themselves, it runs contrary to the principles of due process and natural justice” the letter read.
It added that the students’ actions were not contrary to the provisions of the University of Hong Kong Ordinance.
“We believe this decision is essentially equivalent to severe disciplinary actions against the students,” it continued. The university will resume classes in September, meaning the ban will bar the 32 undergraduate students from attending classes.
The student union’s declaration in early July, which mourned the “sacrifice” of 50 year-old Leung Kin-fai, had drawn fierce criticism from officials and university management and had already prompted the student leaders to withdraw the statement, apologise and resign.
The retraction of the statement, however, did not stop national security police from launching an investigation into the student body and raiding its premises the following week, mere days after the city’s leader Carrie Lam called for “further action” against students involved.
The letter also accused the council of using risk containment as “an excuse” and of falling short of public expectations of the institution.
“Given that the leaders of the student union have retracted its declaration, issued an apology, and resigned, the university is using the excuse of ‘risk containment’ to arbitrarily deprive students of their opportunity to learn, and it does not fit the public expectations of a university to teach by giving guidance,” the letter read.
The seven signatories are Priscilla Chiu, Mak Tung-wing, King Chan Ka-kin, Spencer Chan Shiu-bun, Alex Lai Chun-hung, Alex Chan Wo-shun, and Charles Lai Chun-wai.
Law professor Eric Cheung quit the ruling council immediately after the ban was announced, expressing sadness over its decision and questioning whether it followed due process.
Correction 19.08.21: A previous version of this story misstated that a police raid took place at HKU premises hours after the chief executive called for further action against its student body. The raid took place three days after her statement.