Chinese University students returning for the start of the new academic year on Monday were greeted with banners and posters advocating Hong Kong independence and support for the city’s jailed activists.
Signs with slogans such as “Refuse to drown; independence is the only way” and “Hong Kong independence” were spotted in locations such the Lee Shau Kee Building bridge, the University Library Beacon, Yasumoto International Academic Park, and Cultural Square.
Chinese University Student Union President Au Tsz-ho said that the organisation had draped a banner listing the names of 188 “political prisoners” on the campus’s Goddess of Democracy statue, but that it did not know who was responsible for the other signage. The 188 include the 16 jailed democracy and land rights’ activists whose community service orders were overturned in August.
“I have heard rumours that the posters were put up by students,” said Au. “I am happy that the students took action on a cause they believed in, and hope that other new students will also do their part to fight for what is right.”
CUHK Vice-Chancellor Joseph Sung said that he was aware that students had displayed banners with messages expressing their views in various areas of campus. He said that CUHK was a place of free expression, and that as long as students did not break the law or disturb other people’s learning environment, the university would not react too strongly.
When asked about the recent imprisonment of democracy and land rights’ activists, Sung said that he had nothing to add to discussions that were already happening in society. He said that he hoped that the public would have confidence in the judiciary, and that while young people are right to care about justice, they should use peaceful and reasonable methods to express their views.
By lunchtime Monday, RTHK reported that the banners had been taken down.
The Chinese University Student Union issued a statement criticising the removal, saying that school authorities were shutting down campus discussions about Hong Kong independence. The union urged CUHK to preserve freedom of expression and academic freedom, and not to be a “puppet” of the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments.