Uni­ver­sity heads blast abuse of speech free­dom

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CAR­RIE QIU and LUIS LIU in Hong Kong Con­tact the writ­ers at car­rieqiu@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

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.

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