University of Hong Kong Council Chairman Arthur Li has said that students were who were protesting on campus on Tuesday night were like people who “took drugs” and were “poisoned”.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Li said that the students were very idealistic and had been misled. “Sadly, these small number of students are rather like people who’ve taken drugs, who’ve been poisoned by drugs… they’ve been manipulated, and once you’ve taken drugs, your behaviour can become very irrational,” he said.
On Tuesday, students besieged a meeting of its Council demanding reform of its structure following controversies last year regarding Li’s appointment as deputy head.
‘A blatant lie’
Li called HKU Student Union president Billy Fung Jing-en a “liar”, saying that he gave false information to the students that Council members refused to set up a review panel to examine the Council’s structure, when – in fact – they had.
“This is a blatant lie, and yet the students believed that and took radical action,” he said, adding that he welcomed students’ opinions and was willing to listen to them.
Li said that political forces were manipulating students, namely members of the Civic Party and other pan-democrats.
“One of them is [the Civic Party’s] Alan Leong Kah-kit’s intern – she started a class boycott… because Johannes Chan was not appointed to the position they wanted,” Li said. “You can’t force me to meet you by pointing a gun at me,” he added, claiming that the Civic Party had threatened the Council.
Li denied that reports in the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po newspaper about the nomination of pro-democracy scholar Johannes Chan were political interference. The Council rejected Chan’s nomination with Li taking the HKU Council chairman position last December.
“Apple Daily everyday criticises everybody – you know, any pro-government, any pro-establishment, any pro-Beijing, any faction, is this political interference?” he said, stating that Hong Kong has freedom of speech, and anyone can write anything in newspapers.
Li also denied that his appointment as Council chair by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was a form of interference, saying that – as the Chancellor – Leung had the power to make such appointments.
Vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson stood by his earlier condemnation of students but said that the “vast majority of students… are respectful of authority, well-behaved, and conscientious.” He also said that he relied on Li to identify political party members as he was unable to recognise them.
Mathieson said that he felt safe when visiting the student protest camps during 2014’s pro-democracy Occupy demonstrations, but he did not feel the same on Tuesday: “It’s a miracle that there were not more serious injuries”.
Li said that Mathieson and HKU’s Senior Management Team will decide whether to punish the students involved in Tuesday’s protest.
Additional reporting: Kris Cheng.