The Chinese University of Hong Kong has asked all newly-registered student clubs to sign a declaration that they will not break the law as it presses ahead with plans to create a new student representative body.

The university’s judicial committee ruled earlier this month that a decision by the former student union to dissolve itself was invalid and unconstitutional.

Photo: CUHK.

“We are always open to constructive and collaborative dialogue with students, including exploring options for the establishment of a new student organisation,” Vice-Chancellor and President Rocky Tuan said in an open letter on Thursday.

All new student clubs wishing to be affiliated with the university and receive funding must sign a declaration that they will abide by all Hong Kong laws and university regulations, according to the university’s website.

“They would be requested to sign a statement to declare that the nature and activities of the society will not be in violation of any Hong Kong law or guidelines of the University and [Office of Student Affairs],” it read.

Photo: inmediahk.net via CC 2.0.

The CUHK student union voted to dissolve itself at the start of the academic year, citing increased difficulties after the university demanded it register with government agencies under the Companies or Societies Ordinance.

The university had severed ties with the union in February, citing concerns the student body had breached the Beijing-enacted national security law. The student union leaders stepped down later, saying they had received death threats.

‘Regret’

The CUHK administration said on Thursday it had consulted over 100 students about plans to move forward with a new representative body.

It denied forcing the original union to disband.

“At no point did CUHK pressure or coerce CUSU (Chinese University Student Union) to dissolve its operations. The University is committed to ensuring that its operations, including student organisations, conduct their activities in accordance with the law,” said a statement by the Dean of Students, Raymond Chan.

CUHK Student union press conference. Photo: StandNews screenshot.

He said the university administration received legal advice that the union should register with government agencies, and had tried to engage in “constructive and supportive dialogue” with the union “with a view to assisting with its registration.”

“We regret that all CUSU office bearers with administrative authority collectively resigned.”

The judicial committee decision followed a student’s appeal against the dissolution decision. The committee ruled that the union by-laws had no provisions allowing it to disband.

Campuses have come under increasing pressure to stamp out perceived signs of dissent among the student body, after the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest.

The protests garnered widespread support on campus. The Hongkong Polytechnic University and CUHK descended into battlegrounds between protesters and police.

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.