Hong Kong Baptist University students apologise to teachers as ‘deadline’ to lift suspensions looms
Lau Tsz-kei and Andrew Chan Lok-hang offer in-person apologies but refuse to say if they will take action if their suspensions over Mandarin requirement protest are not lifted
Two Hong Kong Baptist University students suspended over an eight-hour campus stand-off this month apologised to teachers in person on Tuesday, the day before the deadline the pair gave administrators to lift their suspensions or face possible action.
Student union leader Lau Tsz-kei and Andrew Chan Lok-hang, convenor of a Cantonese language support group, met three teachers in private on Tuesday morning.
The teachers were present during the protest on January 17 in which students were calling to scrap a Mandarin language graduation requirement.
“We already made a public apology last week, but we felt like we should apologise in person to them,” Lau said.
“[We wanted to apologise] for our attitude … and for the whole incident as it made them unhappy,” Chan said. “The teachers said they would forgive us and we reached a mutual understanding.”
Lau emphasised that they were not apologising for the protest itself, but only their behaviour.
Lau and Chan declined to reveal who the teachers were, citing privacy concerns. They also refused to say whether they would take action if their suspensions were not lifted.
A spokesman from the university confirmed that language centre staff had met the two students.
“A representative from the language centre said the meeting was carried out cordially and that they would convey the students’ message to the rest of the staff,” the spokesman said.
The protests stemmed from dissatisfaction over the results of a Mandarin language assessment, which 70 per cent of the test takers had failed. Those who fail to pass the test must take a Mandarin course to graduate. Students said they should be free to choose what courses they take.
Some 30 students, including Lau and Chan, confronted staff at the university’s language centre, demanding greater transparency over the exam and claimed it went beyond assessing a student’s basic Mandarin skills.
Lau was filmed speaking aggressively during the incident and using foul language while addressing a teacher during the row.
University president Roland Chin Tai-hong suspended the duo last week after initial investigations found their behaviour to have violated the school’s code of conduct.
Chin said that teachers on the day felt threatened and insulted. Lau denied that any of the students had threatened staff.
The pair’s suspension led to a rally on 10,000-student campus on Friday, when about 300 people protested against barring the two from classes before disciplinary proceedings concluded.
The two gave the school management staff a deadline to retract their decision to suspend them by Wednesday. They would not rule out escalated action if management did not put their suspension on hold until the school’s disciplinary panel came to a decision.
The suspension meant that they were not allowed to attend classes and exams, but were not prevented from entering campus.
Both Lau and Chan have attempted to attend classes since Monday. The student union leader was only rejected once and was able to attend another class after asking permission.