My Take

Universities are allowing radical students to get off scot-free even when they resort to violence

Latest incident at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where a security guard was injured, shows it’s about time we stopped mollycoddling our students

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2016, 11:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2016, 11:08pm

A group of students and outside protesters wearing intimidating black masks gatecrashed a meeting of the Chinese University’s governing council.

They caused mayhem, resulting in the injury of a security guard. Instead of calling the police and reprimanding the students by name, council members invited two of them to the meeting. Even then, the intimidation didn’t stop. They were protesting against the law that automatically makes the chief executive the head of Hong Kong’s public universities.

Chaos and violence during Chinese University of Hong Kong’s council meeting

The university did issue a statement condemning the violence, but only in the most general terms. Well, we all know violence is not a good thing. But how about chasing, naming and punishing those responsible? Probably not.

One of the protesters said violence was unavoidable but refused to take any responsibility. The university’s student union president, Ernie Chow Shue-fung, one of the two student representatives invited to the council meeting, said: “When the situation has reached such an intense stage, some physical conflict is unavoidable.”

Tell that to the injured guard and his family that it was for a good cause. One thing we do know about administrators at our top universities – well, not top anymore according to some recent international rankings – is that they are generally spineless when it comes to dealing with radical students.

Similar chaos had broken out during protests at meetings of the University of Hong Kong’s council in the past year. Former HKU council member and student union president Billy Fung Jing-en had helped lay siege to them. Reprimand or at least a warning letter? Not a chance at HKU.

The University of Chicago this month almost refused an undergraduate degree to protest leader and student body president Tyler Kissinger for helping to occupy a university building. For his action, he was hauled before a disciplinary committee that accused him of “premeditated and dishonest behaviour and contributing to an unsafe situation in the building”.

He, too, was protesting for worthy causes like boycotting investments in fossil fuels, paying university workers a minimum wage of US$15 an hour and ending racist policing on campus.

Ultimately, he got off scot-free but was at least taught a lesson that things you do have consequences, even if it’s for a good cause.

Reprimand our student leaders? No, that would be political persecution.