The Chinese University’s vice-president has said that the school will not give up on communicating honestly with students, despite a student demonstration last week protesting the school’s ban on pro-independence slogans on campus.
The banners and signs first appeared at the Chinese University (CUHK) last Monday, but were later removed by school authorities. A letter from the Staff-Student Centres Management Committee to the student union warned that the discussion of independence “violated Hong Kong’s laws and also violated the school’s constant stance of absolutely opposing Hong Kong independence.”
Last Friday, representatives from the student union held a protest in the office of the Staff-Student Centres Management Committee, urging school authorities to stop curtailing students’ free speech and to respect the union’s autonomy in managing facilities.
As a result, some members of school management were blocked from leaving the office during the protest. Ng said he was trapped there for three hours, while some were trapped for six.
“It was not a pleasant experience, but it did not shake our belief in communicating honestly with students,” Ng wrote in an article that appeared on the CUHK website on Thursday.
“As a teacher, I have the responsibility to analyse the matter with students, to remind them of potential consequences. In the past few days, my colleagues and I have been actively communicating with student leaders, as we hope to see results from the interactions.”
Ng had served as the university’s dean of students in charge of student affairs since 2011, before he was promoted earlier this year.
Ng said many of his friends asked him about the protest and spoke of potential punishments. Addressing their concerns, he said: “I hope you can understand that the main mission of universities is to educate – communication is always better for resolving issues than confrontation, especially for young people nowadays; unfortunately, apart from the students, there were also some outsiders present that day – we were all emotional, it was difficult to have a rational discussion there.”
After meeting with students last week, Ng retracted the school’s warning letter to the student union. He said there was a misunderstanding in communication over the matter, but students must know their responsibilities as well as their rights.
“The university authorises the student union to manage facilities as part of their education, and as a concrete way to respect freedom of speech on campus,” he wrote.
He said the union should ensure mutual respect and order when fellow students post comments on its message board. Anonymous slogans violating rules should be removed, Ng wrote.
Ng also said some media reports quoted him as saying that slogans will not be removed without a consensus, but he clarified in his article that he actually said they will not removed without communication with the student union.
“Some people say the current situation for students is akin to eggs being thrown at tall walls. But my wholehearted response is that I am not a cold wall – I am a five-foot-seven, flesh and blood, slightly older alumni who loves students, loves CUHK, and is willing to communicate,” he concluded.