Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong independence advocates have the ‘mentality of losers’ former education chief says

Arthur Li Kwok-cheung weighed in on the pro-independence banner saga for the first time on Monday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 11:09pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 11:09pm

Pro-independence posters in university campuses reflect a “mentality of losers” among local students in the face of strong competition from their mainland peers, the University of Hong Kong’s governing council chairman has said.

Arthur Li Kwok-cheung also suggested that universities should tear down such posters and take disciplinary action against those putting up posters which mocked a recent suicide.

It was the first time Li, former education chief of Hong Kong, weighed in on the recent saga since a banner and a number of pro-independence posters appeared at the Chinese University campus and another taunting the tragic death of the son of the city’s No 2 education officer appeared at Education University.

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Speaking on an English TV programme, Li said Hong Kong relies on the mainland for basic supplies and trade so much that discussions of separation are meaningless.

“Why do people still want Hong Kong independence? It’s very simple. Our young people in the university cannot compete with our mainland students in terms of scholarships, in terms of prizes, mainland students are winning all the way,” concluded the chairman dubbed “King Arthur” or “Tsar” by critics of his heavy-headed and combative managing style.

“Instead of saying let’s lift our game, let’s compete, they are saying we don’t want to play with you any more, we want to run away, we want to be independent from you. It’s basically the mentality of losers,” said Li.

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Student unions of 12 Hong Kong universities jointly stated last Saturday that teachers and students should be free to discuss Hong Kong independence because their freedom of speech was protected by the Article 27 of the Basic Law.

Li refuted that the advocates of independence were “hiding behind the lofty ideal of freedom of speech in order to denigrate our constitution” and they should have signed their names on the banners and posters instead of putting them up with anonymity.

The independence banners and posters in university campuses, in Li’s point of view, were not part of any academic discussion, but violated the Basic Law and were “seditious”.

“The whole purpose of saying let’s have a debate about this, as if it is very logical, vary rational. But what is there to debate? Basically you are asking for advocacy ... you are losers, so why do we want to spend time?” said Li.

However, when suggesting the universities take down these independence posters, Li said “[the posters] serve no purpose” and “we have a responsibility as teachers to tell our students that what you are doing is wrong”.

Li also suggested that Education University take disciplinary actions against the duo who were caught on closed-circuit television putting up the poster “congratulating” deputy education chief Christine Choi Yuk-lin for losing her son if they could be identified.

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“You have to tell our students that it is unacceptable to be cruel to another human being,” said Li, who believed that the solution to radicalisation of local students was to strengthen family values instead of genuine democracy.

Last Friday, 10 university heads – including Peter Mathieson of HKU – unified to declare that freedom of speech was not limitless and all the universities did not support Hong Kong independence because it contravened the Basic Law.

Among the 10, only the vice-chancellor of the Chinese University Joseph Sun Jao-yiu gave an ultimatum on the same day ordering the university’s student union to remove the banner and posters or the university management would take action. Neither side has taken any action so far.