Police were called to the University of Hong Kong (HKU) campus on Sunday after students gathered to reportedly mourn those killed in a fire in Urumqi, China.

hku police response
Police intervene in a solidarity vigil at the University of Hong Kong. Photo: Undergrad, H.K.U.S.U. Instant News, via Facebook.

Protests against strict Covid-19 regulations have escalated around China in recent days, after at least 10 were killed in a locked down building in Xinjiang’s capital. Frustration over the ongoing restrictions has boiled over with mass gatherings, police-protester clashes, disobedience of Covid rules, and rare anti-government chants in key cities and across dozens of university campuses.

Police told HKFP that HKU campus security called for assistance at around 6 p.m. on Sunday, after they spotted two “suspicious” men putting up posters. Undergrad, a student publication, said in a Sunday Facebook post that they were mainland students who had leaflets relating to the Xinjiang deaths and flowers.

The University of Hong Kong.
The University of Hong Kong. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

An HKU spokesperson told HKFP that they were concerned about public order: “Some people distributed and posted promotional materials on the HKU campus on Sunday evening and refused to disclose their identities and activities to campus security officers upon enquiry. Concerned about potential public order issues, campus security officers sought assistance from the police. Police officers arrived at the scene and confirmed that the people involved were students, who then left on their own.”

Police said that they were only able to find one male – they advised him that such actions needed HKU’s approval.

The case was classified as miscellaneous and no arrests were made.

Blank placard demo

Earlier on Sunday, a photo supplied to HKFP showed a group of young people at HKU holding blank placards – a symbol of the Chinese protests, where speech and internet freedoms are restricted.

hku solidarity demo
A protest solidarity vigil at the University of Hong Kong. Photo: Supplied.

Since the onset of the 2020 national security law, HKU has removed Tiananmen crackdown monuments from campus and axed all links to its since-disbanded student union.

An unverified image appears to show a solidarity protest at the University of Hong Kong.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.