My Take

Sense of decency needed in times of family tragedy

Makeshift university poster and Facebook comments taunting top education official in the wake of her son’s suicide are to be condemned

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 3:13am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 3:13am

Free speech nowadays seems to mean cyberbullying and hounding those who don’t agree with you.

When it was reported that the eldest son of Undersecretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin had committed suicide, a makeshift poster was put up at the Education University congratulating her. More taunts directed at Choi were posted on the university’s Facebook page.

At the same time, the online responses of readers of the anti-government Apple Daily started flooding in. Choi has been a controversial choice for some because she openly supported national education and had been associated with a pro-Beijing education group. You can guess the gist of those messages:

“It’s karma.”

“Retribution comes early.”

“The outcome of the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam condemns ‘callous’ campus taunts after suicide of top official’s son

“If the son of the education official jumped to his death, it must be because he was driven to it by the patriotism of national education.”

Speaking of makeshift posters, when a naive mainland student tore down several A4-sized fliers advocating Hong Kong independence at Chinese University, she was denounced by the student union, filmed and later subjected to threats and online harassment.

The student union leaders said they were defending free speech and academic freedom. But in their turn, they took down posters saying they did not represent all Chinese University students and that Hong Kong is part of China. Apparently, free speech means freedom only for those who agree with you.

The Choi incident is not the first. When former education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim lost his mother and wife, congratulatory messages were sent to his Facebook page. Granted, Ng had been unpopular and his work was justifiably criticised. Still, the man had lost two of the closest women in his life.

Son of Hong Kong deputy education minister jumps to his death from 41st-floor flat

The younger daughter of former chief executive Leung Chun-ying clearly had serious mental health issues. Yet, the opposition and its media allies were more than happy to track and exploit her utterances and antics in public when Leung was in office.

These were the same groups that made a big fuss when others misspoke when comparing some of their colleagues in the Legislative Council to psychiatric patients. Never mind some of their own had said the same thing about Leung.

Senior officials and public figures may be fair game for criticism and caricature. But their family members, especially when they have been struck by tragedy? Is there no sense of decency?