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The Chinese University of Hong Kong took the unprecedented action against its student union on Thursday. Photo: SCMP

Hong Kong national security law: Chinese University’s student union withdraws election statements, after management severed ties citing possible legal breaches

  • Newly elected committee releases statement announcing official withdrawal of its 80-page election manifesto, other campaign statements
  • CUHK council member Edward Lau says students should still bear the responsibility for their act, while former city leader CY Leung describes the union move as ‘ugly’
The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s student union has withdrawn its controversial election manifesto and other campaign statements, two days after school management cut ties with the body citing possible national security law breaches.

“Our cabinet has officially withdrawn its election-related manifesto, campaign platform and other related documents,” the newly elected committee, Syzygia, revealed on its social media account on Saturday without elaborating. All of its previous statements were removed from the online platform as well.

The university on Thursday took unprecedented action against the freshly elected union, severing links with the body on national security grounds and imposing a series of tough measures on its executive committee.

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It accused members of the committee of failing to clarify what it said were false claims they had made about CUHK that could be in breach of the security law.

The raft of administrative restrictions include suspending executive members from ex officio positions on all CUHK committees. The union was also told it would have to assume its own legal responsibilities by registering as an independent society or company, which the university argued was the existing practice at other local institutions.

The controversy erupted earlier this month when the 12-member cabinet – elected on Wednesday to run the union – accused the university of working with police to have students arrested following an attack on campus security guards.

In its 80-page election platform, the members also said the national security law infringed upon basic rights and freedoms and was a disgrace to the dignity of Hongkongers. They added that “national security” was a political way of imposing a totalitarian and repressive rule, while vowing to fight against the “unjust regime”.

CUHK management had strongly objected to the election manifesto.

The Post has contacted CUHK for comment on Syzygia’s latest statement.

The CUHK student union holds a press conference over the action by the university. Photo: Reuters

CUHK council member and pro-establishment lawmaker Edward Lau Kwok-fan said he believed the university would decide on what to do, but he felt students should still bear the responsibility for what they had said and advocated.

“The damage is done. They have been advocating those ideas in the manifesto before and after the election, and they cannot avoid their responsibilities simply by deleting these documents afterwards,” he said.

Former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying described the student union’s move as “ugly” on social media, just hours after the manifesto was withdrawn.

“It’s a good thing that they decided to stop short of a misdeed, but it also shows that young students in this era are immature, while they want to devote themselves to the vortex of complicated political events,” he wrote.

Leung said the union’s decision to withdraw the manifesto was clearly not a deliberate one, and added that even after the university’s sanctions, the student body insisted on organising a press conference on Friday to criticise the school management.

“And it was just a short period of time then they decided to withdraw the manifesto. This is ugly,” he said.

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Syzygia has so far remained silent on why it decided to withdraw the manifesto, while CUHK’s campus radio, one of the five permanent branches under the student union, issued a statement accusing the university of not respecting student election results.

“We strongly condemn the school for ignoring the election results and suppressing the cabinet elected legally with enough valid votes,” the statement read.

“By imposing [the restrictions on the new cabinet], not only did the school disrespect the election results, but it also ignored the opinion of more than 4,000 students who voted.”

Student leaders earlier explained the name of their cabinet – Syzygia – reflected their hope to represent a “tiny star” for Hong Kong, and vowed to never give up on the city even during its darkest nights.

Syzygia is an astronomical term referring to a straight-line configuration of the sun, moon and Earth. The arrangement means the moon cannot be seen from Earth.

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