Community & Education Hong Kong

Is it defamation? Lingnan University’s new council member snaps back at student leader

Newly-appointed Lingnan University Council member Junius Ho has said that university’s Student Union President Lau Chun-lam’s name-calling of him could constitute defamation, but said his own attack on Lingnan University students was not.

In an interview on Ho’s appointment, Lau said that Ho had no right to be on the Council. Lau said that Ho had “knowingly broken the law” when he asked the indigenous inhabitants in New Territories not to declare to the government that they have illegal structures. He said Ho was “on the wrong side of justice” for praising the police during the pro-democracy Occupy movement and that he was “an idiot” for claiming to be a social worker.

lau and ho

Lau and Ho. Photo: Apple Daily.

The former Law Society Chairperson then warned Lau to be careful with his choice of words as Lau could be in breach of the law – “such as defamation” – for calling him ignorant and idiotic on the radio. When asked whether it was also defamation for him to say that students at Lingnan University who were critical of his appointment were suffering from psychosis, he said that “it was merely a description”.

Ho went on to say that although there was freedom of speech, it had limits and that it was a matter of whether the statement was malicious from an objective point of view.

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu. File Phot: Apple Daily.

In a separate interview, Ho told Ming Pao Daily that the system of automatic appointment of the Chief Executive as Chancellor of universities in Hong Kong should not be abolished merely because students did not like the incumbent Chief Executive, and he did not see any reason for abolishing it. He also said he did not need to make any promises not to interfere with with academic freedom and independence as he did not see interference by anyone. Being on the council and academic independence were two entirely different matters, he said.

This is not the first time that Ho has made controversial public comments. In 2012, he suggested in a TV interview that insulting the police should be a crime.

Ho, who was formerly chairman of  the Tuen Mun Rural Committee and a member of the executive committee of the Heung Yee Kuk, has advised the indigenous inhabitants in New Territories against declaring that they have illegal structures to the government. Ho said that “Registering means that you’re turning yourself in and you’re signing a letter of repentance that is an admission of guilt… the government won’t touch you these five years but they will after.”

Ho has often openly criticised the Occupy movement as being illegal and started the “Protect Central” campaign in 2014 to assist those who have been affected by the movement to apply for injunctions and seek compensation.

At the show “City Forum” in May, Ho denounced a Lingnan University concert, in which the song “Fuck the Police” was performed, for its “threatening and insulting” lyrics that “breached the Public Order Ordinance.”

On the same show, he claimed that he was a “social worker”, prompting the Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union to complain to the Social Workers Registration Board that Ho was posing as a social worker. He later apologised, but said on Facebook that the act of reporting him was “more triad-like than triads, more Cultural Revolution than Cultural Revolution”.

Is it defamation? Lingnan University's new council member snaps back at student leader