The cabinet of Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) students’ union faces disciplinary action and possible dissolution over a complaint that documents it shared online contained “exaggerated” and “unfounded” descriptions of past events.

Baptist University
Hong Kong Baptist University. Photo: GovHK.

HKBU barred four executive committee members of the students’ union, including the chairperson and two vice-chairpersons, from taking part in management work related to student associations in the university, the union said in statement on Monday.

The ban, which will last until the end of August next year, was part of disciplinary action taken by the university after it allegedly received a complaint against the student body earlier this month.

The students’ union cabinet was said to have included “exaggerated, unfounded and biased” descriptions of past events in its annual work plan, election platform and budget published online.

Without specifying which descriptions it was referring to, HKBU said in a statement on Monday that the information “misaligned with the norms and values of society at large.” The university expected students to “respect the basic notions of civility and understand the importance of integrity, responsibility and law-abidingness,” it said.

“They should observe these important ethical principles under any circumstances, including publishing information publicly,” HKBU said.

HKFP reached out to HKBU for comment and clarification on the descriptions in question, as well as the number of students being penalised and the type of disciplinary action they face. The university has not responded at the time of publication.

hong kong baptist uni
Hong Kong Baptist University. Photo: GovHK.

The HKBU students’ union, which took office earlier this month, expressed regret over the university’s move and called on the administration to withdraw its decision. According to the student body, the executive committee would automatically dissolve if the positions of the chairpersons and the internal and external vice-chairpersons became vacant during its term, or if the number of cabinet members was fewer than five.

It could also face dissolution if the four cabinet members sanctioned were to step down in accordance with university disciplinary procedures.

The students’ union said it was told about the complaint on April 4, when the university disclosed part of a letter of complaint. The administration cited the protection of the complainant’s privacy as a reason for only partially revealing the content of the letter, the student body said.

It went on to say that the cabinet was not involved in the disciplinary hearing, and the university did not give it a chance to respond to the complaint. It urged the university to provide an explanation to the union, students and the public to prove that the punishment imposed was in line with “procedural justice.”

“We hereby reiterate that, the relevant information quoted in the executive committee’s election manifesto were all objective facts that be found from online news reports. It is not exaggerated or lacked a factual basis,” the cabinet said, adding it would “appeal to the end” in accordance with the university’s disciplinary procedures.

Baptist University
Hong Kong Baptist University. Photo: GovHK.

Since Beijing imposed the sweeping national security law on the city in June 2020 – criminalising secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism – a number of Hong Kong’s government-funded universities have cut ties with their students’ unions.

Last November, HKBU “sternly admonished” the Communication Society after it shared a social media post titled “3rd anniversary of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Incident.”

The occupation of PolyU by protesters in November 2019 involved violence and illegal acts, the university said. Any misleading statement and expression, or exaggeration of the incident was “against the law-abiding spirit and moral values” upheld by the university and society at large, it added.

The university suspended the Communication Society’s right to use email server and other facilities as a result. It also barred the student association from operating until the end of February this year.

In January last year, members of a student publication at HKBU collectively resigned citing staff safety concerns and interference from the university after receiving complaints.

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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.