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HKUST ‘pressures’ Umbrella movie organiser to drop democracy figures from screening panel

Four pro-democracy figures have had their invitations to speak at a screening of Raise the Umbrellas withdrawn by the venue hosts. The move came following pressure from the University of Science and Technology (HKUST), according to the director of the documentary about the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests.

Director Evans Chan told HKFP that the post-screening panel that was set to feature Occupy leaders Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man, lawmaker Eddie Chu and former student leader Billy Fung. However, they will no longer be speaking after the discussion event was “banned” by the university, Chan said.

hkust posters before after

The posters have been amended after the guest lineup was changed. Photo: Evans Chan.

“My film hasn’t been banned though, and for the sake of communicating with university students, I’ve accepted the invitation and will go ahead with the screening,” he said.

Local media outlets reported on Tuesday that Chan Kin-man was informed by the organiser of the event that he had been disinvited because the school wanted to “[keep] politics out of the campus.” When Chan asked who made the relevant decision, he was told that it was the senior management of the School of Humanities and Social Science.

The event, hosted by the school’s Division of Social Science, is scheduled to take place on November 20.

benny tai

Benny Tai. File photo: In-Media.

Tai, who was set to speak at the event, told HKFP: “I was invited and then informed by the organiser that the talk has to be cancelled.” Tai confirmed that the reason was as reported by local media.

Tai said that he was surprised as the university campus was a part of society, and it should also be the more open-minded part of society. Tai said that it was especially important to have different views on political matters aired on university campuses.

Raise the Umbrellas is a documentary about the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests, told through interviews with figures such as Tai, pro-democracy figures Martin Lee, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Emily Lau, student leader Joshua Wong, and activist pop icons Anthony Wong and Denise Ho.

The documentary will be screened at five tertiary education institutions in Hong Kong in November. Although Chan Kin-man will no longer be speaking at HKUST, he will be joining Evans Chan for a discussion at Chinese University of Hong Kong on November 13.

Last year, Hong Kong’s Asia Society called off a screening of Raise the Umbrellas. A spokesperson then said that it was because Evans Chan was only able to invite pro-democracy speakers for the panel.

Update 18.30: In a response to HKFP, the university said: “As an academic event that aims to facilitate a balanced discussion on the documentary, the University considered the planning and the arrangements of the event to be appropriate.”

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HKUST 'pressures' Umbrella movie organiser to drop democracy figures from screening panel