PolyU ‘democracy wall’ row escalates as ‘student tears down’ paper covering Hong Kong independence messages
Incident happens a day before deadline in ultimatum to institution given by student union to remove the red paper
The fight over control of a bulletin board at Hong Kong Polytechnic University escalated on Tuesday after a large piece of red paper that management used to cover pro-independence messages was reportedly torn down by a student.
The incident happened a day before the deadline in an ultimatum issued to university staff by the student union and 37 other campus groups. They called for the removal of the red paper by noon on Wednesday.
The board, also known as the “democracy wall”, was for students to post notices to express their views.
The row started after the union, which manages the wall, relaxed rules on Monday last week, following an unprecedented government ban against the separatist Hong Kong National Party.
Two days after that, a small poster made of four stickers bearing the Chinese characters for “Hong Kong independence” appeared on the wall.
The university requested that the union remove the material and, after no action was taken, management on Saturday used the red paper to cover the wall, prompting the student union to issue its ultimatum.
According to student union president Lam Wing-hang, as he was making a speech in front of the wall at about 1pm on Tuesday, a male student rushed forward and tore down the paper.
“The student appeared to be angry and later claimed he was protesting against PolyU’s censorship of pro-independence messages,” Lam added.
According to Lam, the student said he was asked by his department head not to stir up trouble after he posted some pro-independence material on the democracy wall last year.
The student suspected he was identified in that case because PolyU installed a surveillance camera on a pillar opposite the wall for round-the-clock monitoring, Lam said.
Meanwhile, at the University of Hong Kong, posters and banners backing the Hong Kong National Party on its democracy wall were found to have been removed on Tuesday.
The student union denied removing the posters, which also appeared last week. The university had requested that the union take appropriate action.
Davin Kenneth Wong Ching-fung, president of HKU’s student union, said they were not behind the move and would put up a notice later to make it clear that only the student union had the right to remove postings from the wall.