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Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong university condemns independence calls again as student group adds members

Member says new society has had no problems from the school, and aims to debate issues around calls for the city to part ways with China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 9:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 11:33pm

Chinese University has reiterated its opposition to Hong Kong independence after a student society for discussing the city’s breakaway from China began recruiting last week.

In a statement released on Wednesday – about half a month after new vice chancellor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi took office – the university said: “Any speech or act that incites or promotes Hong Kong independence is in contravention of the Basic Law.”

But it said it would continue to do its utmost to protect freedom of speech and academic autonomy, while ensuring the campus is a place for “the engagement of rational intellectual pursuits, instead of political contests”.

It is not the first time Chinese University (CUHK) has issued such a statement. In September last year it was one of 10 institutions which released a joint statement saying they did not support Hong Kong independence and condemning abuses of freedom of expression.

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The new club, named the Society for the Study of Hong Kong Independence and under CUHK’s student union, posted a recruitment message on CUHK Secrets, a popular Facebook page on which the institution’s students post anonymously, on Friday last week.

A member of the society’s preparatory committee, who wished to be known as KC, said it was set up on January 4 and has around 40 members so far.

The club’s aims are to study the feasibility of Hong Kong independence; provide a platform for members to discuss it while safeguarding freedom of speech and academic freedom; raise awareness of independence topics; and organise related activities.

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KC said the school had not approached the club and that it had not felt oppression from the school.

“I hope the university will protect freedom of speech and academic autonomy like it said in the statement,” the member said.

The university earlier said it would approach the student union’s representative council, which manages the society, to understand the matter, adding that activities associated with CUHK should be conducted in accordance with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Student union president Au Tsz-ho said students can generally set up societies if they are full-time undergraduates and the proposed club does not go against the aims of the union, which include supporting democracy and uniting students. He said the club should also not have too few members and not be too similar to other societies.

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Au added the club had to go through a trial period of at least half a year.

Cheryl Chu On-ni, the union’s external vice-president, criticised the school for putting pressure on the new club and the representative council.

The public institution has been embroiled in a series of controversies since the school year began in September last year, when independence-themed banners and posters appeared on its campus.

The signs were only fully removed about a month later – but not before clashes between the university management and students after the school removed some of the materials. There were also rows between local and mainland students.