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Hong Kong localism and independence

Education University accused of dirty tricks after appearing to start welcome party before student leader could deliver speech on Hong Kong independence

Union president Cheung Yam suggests school counterpart Professor Stephen Cheung tried to mislead freshman into thinking inauguration ceremony was over, before he had delivered his remarks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2018, 8:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2018, 9:47pm

How did university management distract freshmen from listening to a contentious inauguration speech on Hong Kong independence by the student leader? By getting the party started early with food and joyful music, according to the students’ body of the Education University.

A war of words has broken out between management and the provisional student union of the Education University after it accused the school’s president, Professor Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, of deliberately ending the ceremony early.

In his speech, Cheung Yam, president of Education University’s student union provisional executive council, said: “Hong Kong independence is the only way to build a place that is truly based on the interests of Hongkongers.”

But, the union council accused the president – who spoke before Cheung Yam – of misleading freshmen into thinking the ceremony had ended by wrapping up his speech with, “Let’s start the party and enjoy the food and drinks”.

Writing in an open letter to Stephen Cheung on Wednesday, the council, which had already publicly condemned the president last week, said it was unreasonable for him to have halted proceedings before Cheung Yam had spoken.

“No programme brochure of the inauguration ceremony has been distributed at the scene, and thus the freshmen would know nothing about its rundown, let alone the fact that the president of the student union would speak,” the council wrote.

“Isn’t it unreasonable for the president to start the party when a guest has yet to speak?”

Hong Kong students cautioned about independence debate as academic year begins

The council noted the fact that the school had started organising the traditionally solemn inauguration ceremony in a more joyful and casual way two years ago, but that background music was only played after all the speeches.

This year, however, music was played throughout the event, which had “seriously obstructed and disrespected” the speakers, the union said, claiming their request to turn the volume down was ignored.

In a statement earlier this week the university said it regretted the “groundless allegations” by the council.

“In such an informal setting, president Stephen Cheung addressed the 1,000-plus freshmen lightheartedly, reminding them to enjoy the joyous occasion,” the statement read.

It added that the sound level had remained unchanged throughout the event, and staff had not been asked to reduce the volume, something they would have done if requested.

On Wednesday, an Education University spokeswoman said the school noted the latest account of the welcome reception in the council’s open letter, adding: “Over the past two years, the university conducted surveys to collect feedback from new students on the welcome reception and made adjustments to the logistical arrangements, such as variety and placement of food, and background visuals and music.”

The inauguration speeches delivered by the student representatives of various universities have caught attention recently, as some of them took the platform to share their political views, and discussed Hong Kong independence, which touched a nerve with government officials.

On Monday, student leaders at Chinese University’s inauguration ceremony insisted they had a right to discuss the city’s sovereignty.

Lam: speak up against those who advocate ‘absurd’ idea of Hong Kong independence

Baptist University on Tuesday was embroiled in a censorship row, after it emerged that it did not print the speech of student union’s acting president, Ken Lui Lok-hei, in full in its programme booklet, dropping portions where he described Mandarin as a “foreign language not commonly used in Hong Kong”.

A university spokesman dismissed the accusation, and said Lui was told space constraints meant only a truncated version of his remarks would be printed, though he could still give his full speech.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had urged university students and management to speak up against those advocating Hong Kong independence on campuses, as she condemned youngsters using school events as an opportunity to promote “absurd” separatist ideas.