It’s time to stop funding Hong Kong student unions

Independence activists at public universities exploit the resources they are given and no longer represent the interests of the vast majority of members

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 9:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 10:44pm

University student unions are set up to advocate for the welfare of students and give them a voice in the administration of their schools. That’s why they are paid for by mandatory student fees in addition to having rent-free offices and other facility support on campus.

But it’s clear that in recent years, the unions at the eight public universities are no longer fulfilling their duties. Instead, they all effectively function as political parties, with the same agenda of fighting for Hong Kong independence.

While no one is trying to suppress their freedom, they are not entitled to more than what other students and academics enjoy.

An academic or a student is not entitled to hijack official events to promote their own agenda.

Likewise, student union heads have no right to force their views on others, such as when they made speeches on why Hong Kong should become independent on school opening day. Yet, that was precisely what most of the union heads did.

Imagine the public reaction if a senior academic used an event welcoming students back to school to advocate closer integration with the mainland. I am sure those same student leaders would be jumping up and down, claiming mainland interference against academic autonomy.

HKU chief: ‘Campus should not be a platform for political advocacy’

Those student activists exploiting public resources should be called out. They don’t represent the interests of the larger student body, only those few who share their ideology.

This is clear from the recent lacklustre turnouts at annual executive committee elections and the dearth of candidates. Half of the eight public universities now have no popularly elected student union leaders. The Hong Kong Federation of Students, which once represented all eight student unions, is now an empty shell, thanks to union withdrawal and infighting.

In a word, those are no longer student unions and should not be treated as such. There are many clubs and associations at our universities for like-minded students or those with similar interests. If student activists want to advocate independence for the city, they should be free to form their own clubs, just don’t use public union resources.

School administrations should stop forcing students to pay their union dues. They should withdraw all support for facilities except those available for other clubs and associations. Separate offices responsible for student welfare should be set up to replace student unions that have miserably failed their fellow students.