Hong Kong localism and independence

Nothing wrong with Hong Kong independence posters as long as no advocacy: university head

President of Lingnan University says the institution should be a place for exploring knowledge and discussion

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 8:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 10:35pm

Putting up posters to discuss Hong Kong independence in universities is acceptable as long as the material does not advocate it, according to the head of a tertiary institution embroiled in the recent banner row.

Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon, president of Lingnan University, also said vice-chancellors from eight publicly funded universities in the city had discussed issuing a joint statement on the matter but no consensus had been reached.

Cheng’s comments are the latest on a brewing controversy over banners and posters that first mysteriously appeared at Chinese University last week and spread to other institutions.

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Last Friday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor issued a statement condemning the pro-independence posters for violating the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

She added on Tuesday that the matter was not about freedom of speech.

At Lingnan University, posters were seen referring to late Communist leader Mao Zedong and his claim that Hunan, his home province in mainland China, must become an independent state.

But there were no posters blatantly calling for Hong Kong independence.

Speaking after a celebratory event at Lingnan University, Cheng said the Basic Law stipulated that the city was an inalienable part of China.

“The university’s stance is very clear: we disagree with Hong Kong independence,” he said.

But Cheng said the posters found at the “democracy wall” managed by the student union were “under a general nature of discussion” and therefore were not a problem.

“The university is a venue for exploring knowledge. Why can’t things be discussed? Discussion is a basic step in learning,” Cheng said.

“But we will absolutely disallow advocacy on Hong Kong independence,” he added, saying that all other banners hung elsewhere on the campus were also subject to rules by the university.

Cheng stressed that no posters had been removed by Lingnan authorities and any future removal of materials on the “democracy wall” would be discussed in advance with the student union.

Student union vice-president Issac Chan Tsun-hin told the Post that anonymous posters bearing the words “Hong Kong independence” were plastered on the campus wall last week but later mysteriously removed.

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He said on Monday this week, some students had tried to tear off the Mao posters, but the union had reported the case to police.

Lingnan University’s student union was one of the seven unions across tertiary institutions in the city that issued a joint statement last week condemning authorities’ removal of pro-independence material on campus as a “serious erosion” of academic freedom.

At Polytechnic University, about 10 student representatives staged a protest on Wednesday to demand an open dialogue with the management. They were unhappy with the removal of posters bearing the words “Hong Kong independence”, “No guilt to advocate Hong Kong independence”, and “Support Chinese University students”.

PolyU management replied, saying: “To respect and observe the Basic Law, we do not support Hong Kong independence. Based on the same principle, the management of PolyU will remove all related slogans and publicity materials on campus.”

The statement said the removal of such items was meant to protect students “from potentially breaking the law”.