Hong Kong college head condemns ‘vile’ student over confrontation with mainland Chinese counterparts
Row over independence posters at Chinese University continues as man who posted message congratulating education undersecretary over son's suicide is identified
A former student union leader’s tirade against mainlanders during a campus row over calls for Hong Kong independence has ignited a war of words between the head of the university’s oldest college and its students.
Tensions between local and mainland students in Hong Kong intensified last week after independence-themed banners and posters appeared on several campuses, including Chinese University.
On Thursday, quarrels broke out at the site of Chinese University’s “democracy wall” when local students tried to stop mainland counterparts from putting up anti-independence posters and others critical of the student union on top of those advocating independence. The Hong Kong students argued the move went against the principle of freedom of speech.
Seven Hong Kong student unions label removal of independence banners an ‘erosion of academic autonomy’
Former Chinese University student union president Ernie Chow Shue-fung was filmed at the site using the derogatory word “Cheena” in an argument with mainlanders. “Cheena” was used by the Japanese during the wartime occupation of the mainland.
Chow insisted the mainlanders also hurled insults.
On Saturday, Professor Henry Wong Nai-ching, head of New Asia College, where Chow is currently a Year Four student, issued a letter to the college’s students, staff and alumni condemning his behaviour.
“Chow used vulgar language to abuse students and improper language to insult [Chinese],” he said.
“[Chow’s] behaviour is violent and vile. I wish to express my regret and severely condemn his actions.”
He added the college and university were investigating the incident, and expressed hope that Chow would reflect deeply on the incident.
Wong also took issue with Chow’s characterisation of the founders of Chinese University in a statement he made after the incident.
Chow had said the university was founded on the ideals of Tang Junyi, Ch’ien Mu and Mou Zongsan to resist the Communist Party with cultural means.
Accusing the university’s leadership of deviating from the institution's founding ideals, Chow wrote that they were not qualified to criticise him for defending freedom of speech and “insulting China”.
But Wong – whose New Asia college has a tradition of teaching Chinese culture – countered that Chow had misquoted Tang and Ch’ien, and it was Chow who turned his back on the philosophers’ teachings.
Wong said Ch’ien had promoted Chinese culture and morals, and said if someone did not learn from these virtues, he would be unable to establish himself in society.
Ch’ien also said Chinese people must not negate their own culture and have a responsibility to safeguard it.
The college’s student union hit back at Wong on Sunday. “The union considers that it is extremely inappropriate [for Wong] to publicly write a letter to ‘severely condemn’ the student and ask him to ‘deeply reflect’ when the investigation has not been completed,” it said.
On Wong’s criticism about Chow failing to live up to the founding ideals of the university, the union said he had misquoted the founders Chi’en and Tang.
The union argued that if the two founders were alive, they would be “saddened by what Wong did”.
The union went on to argue that Chow acted only in response to a barrage of criticism from people around him, and as the college head, it was “regrettable that Wong refused to protect his own student”.
Separately, internet users identified the person who posted slogans on City University’s “democracy wall” taunting Undersecretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin over the suicide of her son as a student from the Community College of City University.
The University of Wollongong from Australia took over governance of the community college – established in 2004 under City University – in 2014. A college spokesman said it had a student with the same name in 2012, but he had left before completing his course.
After local media reported on his alleged identity, a Facebook user calling himself Fat Tsoi posted a profanity-filled message daring authorities to arrest him.
On Monday, Tsoi shared the reports about himself on Facebook with a hashtag that read: “Congratulations on Choi losing her son”.
“The deaths of ordinary students are just figures, but the death of Christine Choi’s son is a big issue that the whole city is concerned about? I really congratulate you, Christine Choi,” he wrote. He also thanked a Chinese newspaper for reporting the story on its front page.
A City University spokeswoman “severely condemned” Tsoi’s remarks.
In August last year, Tsoi was among suspects arrested by police for allegedly making online threats against returning officers who invalidated the candidacies of six pro-independence advocates in the 2016 Legislative Council elections.
Additional reporting by Tony Cheung