The students of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University (PolyU) have voted down a proposal to disband their top student body, but decided to freeze million of dollars worth of the group’s assets and indefinitely halt operations and recruitment.

The “Red Brick Society” was formerly known as “PolyU Student Union” before the school cut ties with it in April. They said a lawyer had made the recommendation to dissolve the organisation citing the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.

The student body lowered the threshold to pass motions a few months ago, meaning only two-thirds of members present at the vote were required to approve decisions.

On Wednesday, 210 students cast their vote online – 48 per cent supported dissolving the former student union, while 43 per cent disagreed. With 8 per cent abstaining from the vote, the motion to disband was therefore rejected.

“The difference between disbanding and not disbanding is mainly how we’ll handle the assets. Since around 90 per cent of our subsidiary clubs decided to detach from the student union after the school cut ties with us, we do not have many functions left either way,” an executive member, who did not wish to be identified, told HKFP.

The subsidiary clubs are now funded by PolyU.

The assets of the 28-year-old student body – which are worth over HK$10 million – would have been distributed to its members if the motion to disband passed.

Two of the remaining executive members told HKFP on Wednesday that they thought there would be a 60 per cent chance of the group voting to dissolve. They said the future of any student body was not promising under the current political climate, hence the decision to freeze operations.

Campus representation

PolyU was the fifth university to ban its top student body from accessing university resources, after the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Hong Kong, the City University of Hong Kong, and Lingnan University.

PolyU security
Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The university ordered the students’ union to stop using the university name and resources, and to vacate the campus by July 15.

At the time, PolyU said that the requirement was in place to safeguard the university’s reputation and interests, and cited the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Ordinance which requires any organisation to seek PolyU’s authorisation in order to claim association with it.

The students’ union will rent a workplace off-campus next month as “a lot of work still needs to be done,” an executive member told HKFP on Wednesday.

The PolyU campus was the site of fierce police-protester battles during the 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations and unrest.

Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.

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Lea Mok

Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.