Hong Kong university suspends student leaders for organising memorial

  • The University of Science and Technology banned the May event marking the six-month anniversary of the death of Alex Chow during the 2019 protests, but it was held anyway
  • The Student Union’s president and vice-president were suspended for a semester, while four others were also punished
South China Morning Post |

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HKUST’s disciplinary committee notified the involved students of their punishment in January.

The president and vice-president of the University of Science and Technology’s (HKUST) Students’ Union have been suspended for a semester for organising a memorial event on campus for a student who died during the 2019 protests.

They were also warned they could be expelled if any further violations occurred.

The university said the union’s May memorial event – which marked the six-month anniversary of HKUST student Alex Chow Tsz-lok falling to his death in a car park near the site of a protest – posed public health concerns and violated university management’s instruction to not hold the event.

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Four other student union members were handed reprimand letters, barred from using campus sports and amenities facilities for one term, and ordered to serve 75 hours of university community service over the incidents. Those additional penalties also applied to the two suspended.

The event came to light on Sunday after the student union issued a statement revealing the university’s decision, which was made in mid-January.

The union was also said to have violated university rules by refusing to remove posters with separatist slogans put up by students on campus notice boards and repainting the protest slogan “Hope lies in the people; change begins with resistance” on a path near the campus entrance in June last year.

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In a statement on Sunday, the student union expressed regret over the disciplinary committee’s decision, saying the penalty handed to its members was disproportionate.

The union formally responded to allegations by the disciplinary committee in August, while the six students were later summoned for face-to-face meetings in December. The committee consists of seven faculty members and four students.

“In terms of the memorial event, we explained to [the university] that we did implement infection control measures on site, such as temperature screenings and social distancing, as well as providing hand sanitiser to the participants,” suspended union president Donald Mak Ka-chun, a Year Three HKUST student, said.

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“As to the [political materials] on the notice boards, we explained there should not have been a problem, particularly as the national security law had not been passed at that time,” he added, referring to the Beijing-imposed law which came into effect on June 30.

An HKUST spokeswoman on Sunday reiterated that students should follow the rules and guidelines on organising events and using campus facilities, adding those punished could appeal against the decision under existing procedures.

Mak said while he and the other union members were already challenging the decision, the chances of success were slim.

“I believe the university is penalising us to set an example for others and to suppress [students’ activities], and this could also have an impact on the future practices of our successors,” he said.

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