Hong Kong university confirms two men seen putting up posters mocking suicide were its students
Case that sparked outrage and unleashed debate on personal data rights and freedom of speech turned over to school’s disciplinary committee
The Education University confirmed on Friday that the two men captured on surveillance footage putting up posters on campus mocking the suicide of a top education official’s son were its own students.
The investigation committee set up to look into the matter reported the result to the institution’s governing council.
“The committee confirmed that the two persons who put up posters on the democracy wall on September 7 were students of the Education University,” a university spokesman said.
“The case has been passed to the Student Disciplinary Committee for follow-up action.”
On September 7, twelve sheets of A4 paper were affixed to the university’s democracy wall, a space set aside for students to express their views. The posters went up hours after Poon Hong-yan, the 25-year-old son of deputy education chief Christine Choi Yuk-lin, jumped to his death at a residential complex in Yau Ma Tei.
The posters “congratulated” Choi on the incident in Chinese.
The messages sparked outrage across the city, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor calling them “cold-blooded” and Education University council chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang saying there were “limits to freedom of speech”.
In its response, however, the university’s student union emphasised the importance of free speech.
A day after the incident, vice-chancellor Stephen Cheung Yan-leung said two men were captured by closed-circuit TV cameras putting up the posters. But the leaked images drew criticism and unleashed a debate on the rights of personal data and free speech.
Hundreds of school principals also condemned the taunting, with one school rejecting 10 internships for Education University undergraduates. Other employers threatened to never hire its graduates.
On September 9, a poster written in simplified Chinese and mocking the death of Chinese dissident and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo appeared on the same wall.
In that case, the disciplinary committee failed to identify the three suspects captured by CCTV as they had “covered their face deliberately”.
Asked whether the university would follow up the matter, the spokesman said the case had been transferred to the committee to follow up, adding: “No speculation should be made”. He assured that the school would handle the matter fairly in accordance with its rules and regulations.
The committee comprises the director of student affairs, teaching staff and student union representatives.
According to school regulations, the most serious punishment the students could face is expulsion.
A spokesman for the Education Bureau said it had already condemned the students’ behaviour and believed the university would handle the matter appropriately.
He added that the bureau respected freedom of speech, yet stressed that views should be expressed legally, respectfully and meet a moral standard.
“Society also holds university students to certain expectations.”