The students’ union of the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) is seeking to operate off campus, its president has said, after the representative body moved out of its premises upon orders from the university administration.

Representatives of the City University of Hong Kong Students’ Union. Photo: City Broadcasting Channel (CBC).

The head of the CityU students’ union Jason Lau Tsun-kit told HKFP on Tuesday that the executive committee was looking for a new office away from the Kowloon Tong campus in order to “maintain basic operations.”

It came a day after dozens of students held a “parting ceremony” at the university on the last day of its eviction notice. CityU’s Student Development Services had issued a letter to Lau last Monday, telling the union to vacate and return its premises by February 14 after it failed to comply with a request to submit 16 years of audited financial records within two weeks.

Students of the City University of Hong Kong stage a walk on campus on February 14, 2022. Photo: City Broadcasting Channel (CBC).

Lau said the students’ union is in the process of liaising with its affiliated associations to see if they also needed to find a venue outside of the campus to store their supplies. According to the 19-year-old student, other CityU student groups were told by the administration that they could remain on campus for another month, and “approved societies” may file an application form to borrow a venue from the university in the future.

The Year Two union chair described the instructions from the university as “unclear,” saying they were unsure whether the new venue-borrowing arrangement would have any restrictions. He added the administration did not mention which organisation would qualify as an “approved society.”

A City University of Hong Kong student uses a brush to write down the phrase “[we will] not yield a single step” at its store entrance. Photo: City Broadcasting Channel (CBC).

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, CityU said on Thursday that the student body was an externally registered organisation independent of the university and the administration had no comment on the union’s plan to run an off-campus office.

“The University will allocate the activity space vacated by the Students’ Union to eligible student organisations, thereby serving more than 20,000 students fairly,” the university spokesperson said.

‘Add oil, hang in there’

On Monday, Lau and some representatives of the students’ union executive committee, staged a walk from its office to Cut Price, a store where CityU students were able to buy stationery, snacks and other items from the student body at a discounted price, local media reported.

Messages left on the democracy wall at the City University of Hong Kong. Photo: City Broadcasting Channel (CBC).

Using a writing brush, a student wrote the phrases “freedom of thought,” “academic autonomy,” “[we will] not yield a single step” and “resist till the end” at the store entrance. The walk ended at the “democracy wall,” a message board which was previously used by students to share their views on political events. Next to the wall was the Goddess of Democracy statue, a monument commemorating Beijing’s military crackdown on a student-led democracy movement in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

This photo taken on February 14, 2022 shows the Goddess of Democracy statue in the City University of Hong Kong before it was removed from the site later that day. Photo: City Broadcasting Channel (CBC).

Some CityU students pushed over the red barricades surrounding the wall to put up memo stickers with final messages to the students’ union.

“Thank you, students’ union,” one note read.

Another one read: “Grateful that we have walked together for 37 years. Add oil, hang in there!”

A City University of Hong Kong student locks up the door of its store. Photo: City Broadcasting Channel (CBC).

Lau told HKFP that he and cabinet members of the students’ union “really did not want to let go” of their premises on campus, as they had established bonding with their affiliated members there.

The cabinet, known as Crepusculum, officially took office on January 27. While the Public Policy and Politics student spent only 18 days in the union’s headquarters as a student leader, he said he was no stranger to the venue as he often used it when he was serving in other student societies.

Representatives of the City University of Hong Kong Students’ Union. Photo: City Broadcasting Channel (CBC).

“We just hope there is a place where we can be close to the students and the affiliated societies. It’s just a really simple request,” Lau said. “We have been at CityU for 37 years… I hope one day there would be a place on campus for us, the students’ union, again.”

Statue removal

Following the parting ceremony, the CityU students’ union also removed the Goddess of Democracy statue from campus. Lau refused to disclose the current location of the statue.

It was the last commemorative art piece linked to the 1989 crackdown on display at a local universities, after the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University tore down similar monuments overnight last December.

The CityU students’ union had decided to remove the statue upon the university’s written request that came a day after the 48-hour campus crackdown on the memory of the June 4 crackdown.

The student body said at the time that the statue was its property and it was difficult to transport away because of damage. It agreed to remove the monument from campus to avoid further destruction and for other “long-term” purposes.

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Kelly Ho

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.