My Take

Ernie Chow Shue-fung’s tirade in college row goes beyond the pale

It’s difficult to see how the former Chinese University student union president shouting obscenities at the top of his lungs amounts to a defence of free speech and academic freedom

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 1:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 1:17am

Reasonable people may disagree on whether university is a legitimate place to debate or advocate Hong Kong independence.

But I think it’s fair to say that the behaviour and responses of former Chinese University student union president Ernie Chow Shue-fung and the union itself are simply beyond the pale.

Chow went on a deranged and obscenity-filled tirade against several mainland students. And the union defended him.

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Professor Henry Wong Nai-ching, head of New Asia College, where Chow is currently in his fourth year, subsequently issued an internal letter condemning Chow and urging him to reflect on his behaviour. Far from admitting any wrongdoing, Chow wrote that college authorities were not qualified to criticise him for defending freedom of speech and “insulting China”.

This, he claimed, was because he was upholding the ideals of university founders Tang Junyi, Ch’ien Mu and Mou Zongsan to resist the Communist Party with cultural means.

The student union also hit back at Wong, saying it was inappropriate to condemn and lecture Chow when an investigation was pending.

It also made fun of Wong’s Chinese name.

Having heard Chow’s tirade against the mainland students from a widely circulated online clip, I would have liked you to have been the judge as to whether he was acting appropriately and that the union was right to defend him.

However his language was simply too blue to be printed in a family newspaper.

As well as the expletives, Chow also repeatedly shouted the derogatory word “Cheena”, used by the Japanese during the wartime occupation of the mainland, to describe Chinese.

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When I was on the crime beat, I had on many occasions met triad members, none of whom was as foul-mouthed as Chow.

It’s difficult to see how shouting such things, at the top of your lungs, at your fellow students – albeit from the mainland – in any way followed the ideals of the university’s philosopher founders or that it amounted to a defence of free speech and academic freedom.

Perhaps this is now an acceptable mode of academic debate at our universities.