My Take

Protesting students at University of Hong Kong reveal their mob mentality

The 200 HKU students who mobbed their own campus say their calls are being ignored – but those demands are impossible to meet

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 January, 2016, 10:10pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

If they represent Hong Kong’s best and brightest, then God help us.

More than 200 screaming University of Hong Kong students mobbed their own campus, illegally trapped university council members and staff inside buildings and confronted security staff and threw objects at police.

In most Western democracies, such behaviour would have meant being pepper-sprayed and thrown into jail for the night.

But hey, this is Hong Kong. So new council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, the target of their protests, had to be sneaked out under police protection. HKU vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson, who had been encouraging students to speak up, said he felt his life was threatened. When even the ever diplomatic Mathieson said he felt unsafe, you can be sure you are seeing some seriously extreme mob behaviour.

But Billy Fung Jing-en, head of the student union, said all that was “reasonable”. I hate to know what he would find unreasonable.

A police officer was criticised for merely threatening to use pepper spray. Stricken council member Leonie Ki Man-fung was stuck in an ambulance for an hour as students blocked it from leaving. Students said it was all her own fault for abusing emergency services. How did they know Ki was faking it? Are they doctors?

The students said their demands were being ignored and that left them with no choice but to protest as a last resort. Never mind that Li had agreed to meet them. They demanded a meeting now, at that moment. Never mind that the council had set up a committee to examine the university’s governance structure. They wanted it done now, right this minute.

It looks more like they were backing the council and university administration into a corner rather than the other way round, as the students claim.

Basically, their demands are impossible to meet. And they know it – all the more reason to continue their protests while claiming they were being ignored and repressed.

Frankly, it’s hard to see what they are doing or if the goals they claim they are fighting for in any way benefit the university or society at large.

I can’t for the life of me see how most business conducted by the council remotely affects those students in their undergraduate careers or restricts their freedom.