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The silencing of the voice of students by universities accelerates


The silencing of the voice of students in Hong Kong continues apace after the city's oldest university, the University of Hong Kong, will no longer recognize its student union.

"The Hong Kong University Students Union (HKUSU) has become increasingly politicized in recent years, using the university campus as a platform for its political propaganda," the University of Hong Kong (HKU) said in a statement released on 30 April.

The student union "repeatedly made incendiary and potentially illegal public statements and groundless allegations against the university," he said.

"It is not acceptable that the HKUSU, an independent student organization , ignore the advice of the university and the general interests of the HKU community while taking advantage of the services and facilities offered by the university. HKUSU's actions also bring legal risks to the university, "the university said, without reference to Hong Kong's draconian National Security Law.

It said the university would stop charging membership fees on behalf of the HKUSU and that it would "enforce its management rights" over the facilities currently used by the union.

"The university is not an outlaw safe haven," HKU said, adding that it had the responsibility to "safeguard the collective interest of all staff and students."

"The university may also take other measures, if necessary," he said, citing the need to protect "national security."

In a separate email to students, the HKU administration said it would "enforce our management rights over the offices and other facilities currently used by HKUSU," but added that this does not affect r the "ongoing commitment of the university to facilitate and support extracurricular activities on campus and foster a positive learning environment for all students."

The severance of ties with the union comes after a article in Chines The official newspaper of the Communist Party, the People's Daily denounced the HKUSU for defaming the government's attempts to gain public support for the National Security Law.

The Diario del Pueblo accused the union of becoming a platform for propaganda and “radical acts.”

“Given the People's Daily tirade against the student union, it is the voice of students in any Hong Kong university is unlikely to be allowed to continue openly and freely. Other universities will be the next target of the general erosion of Hong Kong's freedoms, ”said a student member of the HKU union on condition of anonymity.

Second university to target student union

HKU, the highest ranked university in Asia, is the second Hong Kong university to effectively ban student political participation, after a similar action by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), which led to the dissolution of the leadership of the CUHK student union.

CUHK severed ties with the leadership of its student union known as Syzygia on February 26, banning the union from using university facilities, accusing it of failing to clarify "potentially illegal statements and false accusations."

HKU goes further by targeting the entire union, not just union leaders, the students noted.

According to Hong Kong's public broadcaster RTHK, Hong Kong Polytechnic University is now the only one of the city's 11 publicly funded universities to have an operational student union cabinet this year. Other universities have found few students willing to run for positions in student unions for fear of being targeted by the National Security Act.

Even before the law took effect in July 2020, union leaders were a target. In 2019, then-acting HKUSU president Davin Kenneth Wong left his post and fled abroad, saying he decided to leave after being attacked in August of that year by masked thugs with batons.

Vocal Union

The HKU statement of April 30 noted that the union had "expressed its voice in recent years", adding that "the university strongly condemns radical acts and comments from HKUSU ".

However, experts noted that the union, which was established in 1912, has a long history of speaking out on political issues.

"The HKUSU has expressed its opinion on political issues since at least the 1970s in everything from [China’s 1960s] the Cultural Revolution and the Diaoyutai Islands to the Tiananmen Massacre, Article 23 and the Umbrella Movement [seven years ago]," he said. Antony Dapiran, Hong Kong-based Lawyer and author of a book, City on Fire: The fight for Hong Kong about the 2019 protests, writing on Twitter.

Article 23 refers to attempts in 2003 by the Hong Kong government to implement a national security law, shelved after major protests in the city. The HKUSU was also actively involved in the dispute regarding the Diaoyutai / Senkaku Islands, which are currently under the jurisdiction of Japan but claimed by China. Hong Kong activists, including HKUSU members, sailed to the islands in 1996 and 2006 in support of China's claim.

“University student unions have been a key feature of Hong Kong civil society for decades. They and other elements of this lively civil society are being attacked and dismantled with the aim that Hong Kong will soon have the same castrated civil society as on the mainland, ”Dapiran said on Twitter in reaction to People's Daily .

The HKU Alumni Concern Group, in a statement on May 1, condemned HKUSU's "political repression" and said that taking control of the management of union facilities on campus was an "unreasonable decision."

“In our opinion, it is obviously a political task for the university to suppress student organizations on behalf of the administrative media. The purpose of these actions of the school is to weaken the representativeness and influence of the student union, squeeze the economic resources of the student union, make it difficult for the student union to promote [its] student service, university administration and community participation. , and finally compel the student union to silence [regarding] the aforementioned issues. ”

Representing the interests of students

HKUSU issued a statement on May 1 in response to the university's decision, highlighting the importance of defending the interests of the students in university affairs and act as a bridge between the student body and university management. All HKU university students are automatically union members.

HKUSU said: “The union, despite being an independent organization, has maintained close cooperation with the university on an equal footing. Although there were cases in which the union did not agree with the university leadership, we have always worked together, fighting for the well-being of the students and the good governance of the university, respecting the principle of teacher-student co-government. ”

He said that the university's action“ would have a far-reaching impact on the functioning of the union and its sub-organizations. This act has seriously undermined the interests of the students. ”

“ In these troubled times, the union sincerely requests the support and attention to this matter from our schoolmates, in an attempt to secure the last piece autonomy for students in Hong Kong, ”he said, launching a petition to support the continuation of the union on campus.

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