The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has asked dozens of student leaders to indicate their roles in a controversial student council meeting that passed a now-withdrawn sympathy motion on the suicide of a police attacker. It comes days after four council members were arrested and charged with advocating terrorism under the national security law, despite them withdrawing the motion, apologising, and stepping down.

In an email sent on Tuesday afternoon, HKU Registrar Jeannie Tsang asked students who attended a student union (HKUSU) council meeting on July 7 to describe their “role[s] and manner of participation” in the event.

The University of Hong Kong. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The email recipients were “invited” to respond to questions about their attendance in the meeting concerned and whether they had proposed or seconded the contentious motion. They were also asked to indicate whether they took part in the voting and what vote they had cast. Their answers had to be submitted by Friday, the email – shared by a group of HKU alumni – read.

The email said: “You are welcome to supplement your responses with any further information which you consider to be useful to illustrate your role and manner of participation in the meeting and the voting (if applicable).”

Pressure from gov’t

A total of 32 HKU students participated in the meeting that passed a resolution to “express deep sadness” at the death of Leung Kin-fai. The 50-year-old man knifed and seriously injured a policeman in Causeway Bay on July 1, before stabbing himself to death.

The motion drew severe criticism from the government and the university administration, who slammed the students as “whitewashing violence.”

The HKUSU Council apologised and retracted the motion two days after the meeting, saying it was “seriously inappropriate.” The student union executive committee and some members of the council also stepped down.

Tiananmen Square Massacre Pillar of Shame HKUSU
Charles Kwok, former president of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Despite the apology and resignations, police arrested and charged four student leaders with “advocating terrorism” under the Beijing-imposed security legislation last week. They included HKUSU council chairperson Kinson Cheung, council member Anthony Yung, student union former chairperson Charles Kwok and former student residence representative on the council Chris Todorovski. All were remanded in custody; Yung will attend a bail review hearing on Friday.

Tsang said on Tuesday that the university would consider the responses, or non-responses, of the student leaders in reviewing a ban imposed by the university’s governing council earlier this month. Students involved in the controversy have been barred from entering the campus in Pok Fu Lam and accessing campus facilities and services until further notice.

A group of former members of the HKUSU Council said it was “unreasonable” for the university registrar to ask students involved to declare their roles in the meeting, which has entered judicial proceedings.

They said requiring students to disclose details about their involvement in the meeting showed the university had not “grasped the basic facts” before slapping an entry ban on the student council members.

HKU student union HKUSU
HKU student union. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“It further proves that the statement from the HKU Council on August 4 was unfounded. [They] do not even know who they are punishing… it is extremely ridiculous,” the group said.

Over 1,100 HKU alumni have signed a petition urging the university governing body to revoke its punishment against the student leaders. HKU legal scholar Eric Cheung also questioned the council’s power to take disciplinary action against those involved, after he resigned from the body.

The HKU registrar said in the email on Tuesday that the response from students would not form part of the procedures linked to student discipline matters: “For avoidance of doubt, the information provided by you pursuant to this email will not be used against you in the disciplinary proceedings (if any)…”

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.