Wearing shirts and jeans, Don Chan and Raymond Liu look like average university students in Hong Kong. In fact, they are the co-founders of the University of Hong Kong Medical Students’ Political Reform Concern Group. The student-initiated group was set up in response to the National People Congress’ (NPC) decision on the framework of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive election in 2017.
“We found that medical students didn’t know much about the political reform. Thus, we decided to set up the HKU Medical Students’ Political Reform Concern Group with the hope that more students will pay attention to this,” said Don.
The group was formed in September 2014 by Don Chan, a year-three medical student. His classmate, Raymond Liu, also decided to take the lead as the spokesperson of the group. “I joined because this matched with my personal ideas,” Raymond said. “I then contributed by involving [myself] in works like drafting statements and hanging posters.”
Don said there were about 30 people in the group during the most heated period of the protests.
Medical students have to face long lesson hours and tough exams. Buy why would they want to set up a political reform concern group? “Saving the injured is [a] doctor’s responsibility. How can we not rescue our city when it is suffering?” A banner hung at the entrance of the medical campus might have provided the answer.
The students said that their mission was to “rescue this city”. They set up their official Facebook page, which attracted more than 1,400 likes. According to the page, they had standpoints such as “against the use of ‘Love China, Love Hong Kong’ as the precondition of being the Chief Executive”, and “oppose the framework set by the NPC”.
“We held a class-boycott forum which attracted the attendance of about 100 students,” Don said. “Actually we didn’t want to motivate students to boycott classes. Instead, we want to enlighten students to think in a rational manner.” Raymond said.
“More students have become aware of the political reform now,” Don said while shrugging his shoulders, “though this might not be the result of our work.”
Introductory video about political reform forum by HKU Medical Students’ Political Reform Concern Group (in Chinese)
It has always been said that participating in a class boycott or civil disobedience requires the participant to face his or her own consequences. “I will admit that we were holding a sense of luck when we participated in these civil movements,” Raymond said, “as we assumed that the policemen could not prosecute everyone.”
“I am also afraid of being arrested,” added Don, “I doubted at the beginning as I wondered whether this sacrifice would be meaningful, but I finally did what I believed was right.”
It could undermine their future prospects if they were prosecuted. Raymond explained that if medical students have a criminal record, they might not be able to intern at public hospitals, a crucial step before they can become actual doctors. “It is still uncertain if the Medical Council would issue licenses for us if we have criminal records,” he added.
But even if they were not prosecuted, their participation in the class boycott action alone has already resulted in significant consequences.
“We usually have one or two lectures every day. On average, we need to spend two-to-three hours to clear the concepts in the lecture notes. We don’t have assignments. Thus, we have flexibility with our time arrangement.” Don explained. “But we have participated in [the] class boycott for almost three weeks and skipped all the lessons. Together with the daily workload, my progress of clearing lecture notes does not even reach ten per cent.”
Walking around the quiet and compact Sassoon Road campus, banners and posters supporting the “umbrella movement” are seen hanging around. “We encountered a case where a student approached us indirectly and said that this was ‘disturbing’.” Raymond admitted.
“You may say our posters are aligned with the pan-democrats and biased, but actually we didn’t advocate criticism. We only wanted to make people think more.” Despite this, Don and Raymond are still unsure about the future direction of the concern group.
“In the future, we hope to establish an official system to continue raising students’ awareness towards social issues,” said Raymond, “though we did feel a bit lost, we want to do what we believe is right.”
Photo: Canadian Pacific