University heads blast abuse of speech freedom
The presidents of 10 universities in Hong Kong issued a joint statement on Friday condemning the abuse of freedom of expression in the recent independence row on campuses.
This came after posters advocating “Hong Kong independence” appeared on local university campuses at the beginning of the new semester. In one of the most widely reported incidents, the controversy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong was followed by an intense confrontation between student union members and mainland students.
The presidents of the 10 universities said they value freedom of expression but there is no absolute freedom. “We treasure freedom of expression but we condemn its recent abuses. All freedoms come with responsibilities,” the brief statement said.
All 10 universities do not support “Hong Kong independence” and stressed that such a notion goes against the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitutional document.
The 10 universities include the University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, Shue Yan University, Lingnan University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Education University, Polytechnic University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Open University of Hong Kong.
On the same day, CUHK President Joseph Sung Jao-yiu requested the university’s student union to immediately remove illegal pro-independence posters on campus. Otherwise the school will take action against the posters.
He stressed that freedom of speech has certain constraints and should not involve breaking the law.
This is not the first time he has blasted “Hong Kong independence” and the abuse of freedom. Last week, Sung sent an email to all students and faculties stating his stance against separatism, and stressed that the university should not be turned into a political arena.
Sung also apologized to those offended by “malicious personal attacks” in “abusive language” from CUHK students.
He stressed that the Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong is an inseparable part of the People’s Republic of China and CUHK is against the concept of “Hong Kong independence”.
He said the university does not want different political groups to propagate on campus because it crushes “the peaceful environment where teachers and students pursue knowledge”.
He said if the student union does not remove relevant posters immediately, the university will remove them.
The standoff emerged after an online video surfaced last week showing a female mainland student tearing off “Hong Kong independence” posters from the “democracy wall” at CUHK because she opposed the illegal notion and found it hard to find any space for other posters. A few CUHK student union members stopped her.