image

Hong Kong localism and independence

Localist students disrupt Hong Kong school’s open day with freedom of speech protest

Students claimed school prevented them spreading political messages by drafting new rules against distribution of leaflets

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 December, 2017, 8:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 1:29am

A Catholic school in Hong Kong was forced to shut its doors during an open day on Saturday after students distributed leaflets, accusing teachers of suppressing freedom of speech.

The school closed its gates as students chanted slogans through amplifiers while others distributed leaflets claiming they had been “suppressed” by Our Lady’s College in Wong Tai Sin and listing what, in their view, was wrong with Hong Kong society.

Although they were not on campus, teachers asked them to cover their uniforms to avoid giving the impression the school endorsed their actions.

On live footage on their Facebook page, the students claimed the school had prevented them spreading political messages, such as opposition to government legal action against Occupy movement leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, by drafting new rules against the distribution of leaflets.

Further away, a dozen supporters from two fledgling pro-localism groups – Hong Kong National Front and Studentlocalism – gathered to support the students.

Plain-clothes police took ID card numbers, according to Tony Chung Hon-lam, convenor of Studentlocalism.

The incident highlighted the increasing difficulty facing school management when it comes to handling politically-minded students.

“We will wait and see how Our Lady’s College deals with the students in order to assess the effectiveness of our action,” Chung said.

The school could not be reached for comment.

Student activism has been on the rise in Hong Kong since the Occupy campaign in 2014, when uniformed students first gathered in the protest areas calling for universal suffrage.

Earlier this year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor dismissed university students’ hanging banners on campuses that declared support for an independent Hong Kong, separate from Chinese sovereignty.

Saturday’s incident followed a wave of localism events planned at 18 schools and universities across the city that are reviving a controversial drive to promote independence.

Together they were distributing thousands of separatism-themed fliers and stickers to students at school entrances, plastering them on message boards known as “democracy walls” at universities, and setting up street booths in Wan Chai, Kwun Tong and Yuen Long.