Students from Lingnan University shouted protest slogans during their graduation ceremony as Chief Executive Carrie Lam sat on stage last week.
Around ten students, who were from a master’s programme in cultural studies, staged protests as they were called on stage last Thursday. They said they opposed Lam’s proposal to build 1,700-hectare artificial islands near Lantau Island, as well as the prosecution of Umbrella Movement activists.
“The nine [Umbrella Movement] activists are innocent. Oppose reclamation,” one student shouted.
Multiple students held printouts emblazoned with Lam’s face and anti-reclamation slogans, which they then placed in front of her.
Another group of students stood up in the back rows of the hall, holding banners that opposed reclamation and protested Lam’s role as the university’s chancellor.
By law, the chief executive serves as chancellor for all public universities. Critics have said that the existing law gives the city’s leader too much power to influence university affairs and may harm academic freedom.
Lam did not respond to the protests.
Lingnan University President Leonard Cheng gave a speech during the ceremony, urging graduates to express their ideas respectfully.
“In order to make your view really count, you need to present your view in a cool fashion, and sustain it with good arguments, solid analysis and good evidence,” Cheng said.
A university spokesperson said the protests “seriously disrupted” the ceremony. In response, the students said that they did not engage in radical protests, but only wanted a space for dialogue.
“We have [taken] into consideration that this graduation ceremony belongs to other students too, so we chose to protest at a time which would affect the ceremony the least… each action took a short time, and we mostly kept quiet the rest of the time,” the students said in a statement.
“To us graduates, the graduation ceremony was the only opportunity to be heard, because the government is unwilling to listen to dissenting voices,” they added.