Arming Ourselves in Our Darkest Hour - Declaration of Students' Unions of Higher Institutions on the Controversy Surrounding Democracy Wall

In the past few days, controversy surrounding students' use of their democracy wall has broken out and received widespread attention. Communist puppet Lam Cheng Yuet Ngor took the chance and implied that freedom of speech should be limited, and fallacies have been told under the veil of academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Universities are where thoughts and opinions are exchanged, and democracy walls are platforms for students to speak our mind. The regime is now making an explicit effort to limit our freedom of expression through exerting pressure on university authorities to punish those whose speech may have intimidated the people in power. Student Unions across the higher institutions condemn such atrocities.

In the Chinese University of Hong Kong, students hanged banner advocating Hong Kong independence at a site managed by Student Union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Related leaflets were also posted to the democracy wall. Staggeringly, while the students by no means breached the law, the university authorities claimed that such advocacies as illegal and overrode CUSU by sending securities to remove the banner, revealing their complete ignorance to the autonomy of CUSU. Student Unions now reiterate that the nature of the Basic Law is similar to that of a constitution, which defines the power of the government and the liberty enjoyed by the citizenry. In other words, while the government is bound by the constitution, the government can never restrict the liberty of the people through the constitution. Thus, neither the government nor the university authorities can restrict the freedom of students to discuss Hong Kong independence under the name of the Basic Law.

Due to the controversy, the Executive Committee of CUSU has been suffering excessive nuisance. Yet, neither has there been any response from nor actions taken by the university authorities to protect the students. The authorities, as educators, should feel shameful for not ensuring the safety of students due to differences in opinions.

Apart from this, there were also two persons posting slogans to congratulate Education Undersecretary Choi Yuk Lin's loss of her son on the democracy wall at the Education University of Hong Kong. The President of EdUHK severely condemned the students as vicious, and claimed that the university would expose those persons on the internet if they were not students of EdUHK. Related shots of CCTV were then released to the media in the following day. Indeed, student unions believe the slogans are inappropriate. Yet, it is also important to acknowledge that the Education Bureau has been introducing malicious policies against students, ranging from TSA to national education, and Choi has been an explicitly pro-government person. With no effective channels to express their discontent, young people may have chosen such emotional and even irrational expression. Thus, while such slogans are inappropriate, we also find them excusable. Albeit their discontent, the university authorities should not have released the shots of CCTV to the media. Such action not only stirs up public emotions and ignites mass criticism against the two persons which would be completely out of proportion, but may also constitute violation of Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. Student may also be aware of similar vengeful acts when they criticise the university authorities again in the future. Student unions condemn the authorities of EdUHK for creating white terror and request the authorities to give a proper response regarding the leak of CCTV footage.

Under Article 27 of the Basic Law, we as Hong Kong citizens are entitled to the freedom of speech. Our rights must be protected and respected, while academic freedom and institutional autonomy are values that must not be stripped away. Student unions stress that everyone enjoys the freedom of speech, and this is the line that we shall never compromise. We are now paying attention to situation across the higher institutions and we are ready to defend our rights and liberty.

10 September 2017

City University of Hong Kong Students' Union
Hang Seng Management College Students' Union
Hong Kong Baptist University Students' Union
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Students' Union
Lingnan University Students' Union
Student Union of Chu Hai College of Higher Education
Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong Students' Union
The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Students' Union
The Education University of Hong Kong Students' Union
The Hong Kong University Students' Union
The Open University of Hong Kong Students' Union
The Student Union of Hong Kong Shue Yan University
The Student Union of The Chinese University of Hong Kong