Former student leaders launch attack on University of Hong Kong chiefs, accuse them of being in grip of Communist Party and call for US action

·5-min read

Five former student leaders led an attack on University of Hong Kong chiefs on Wednesday, accusing them of being “clearly in the grip” of the Communist Party and urging Washington to consider taking action to protect Western interests.

The release of their six-page report, co-written by activists based overseas or in Taiwan, came a day after HKU severed ties with its controversial student union and vowed to investigate members who approved a resolution “appreciating the sacrifice” of a man who stabbed a police officer before killing himself.

Earlier on Wednesday, Executive Council member Ronny Tong Ka-wah said those who approved the motion could face legal action for spreading terrorism. He said he believed the Department of Justice was already weighing whether it should initiate legal proceedings.

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But at a Legislative Council meeting, education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung and security secretary Chris Tang Ping-keung declined to comment further on the HKU controversy.

Exco member Ronny Tong. Photo: Sam Tsang
Exco member Ronny Tong. Photo: Sam Tsang

Tang said only that police would investigate any allegation about illegal acts, such as those under the national security law or the Crimes Ordinance section dealing with sedition. Authorities would make arrests and initiate prosecutions if there was enough evidence, he added.

The report, seen by the Post, was written by democracy activists and HKU alumni, including former Occupy student leader Alex Chow Yong-kang, activists Glacier Kwong Chung-ching, Sunny Cheung Kwan-yang and Brian Leung Kai-ping, as well as Chiang Min-yen, a graduate now based in Taiwan.

Cheung and Leung are on Hong Kong police’s wanted list.

Top HKU official backs national security probe into student union leaders

In the report, they said they had looked into the background of all 24 members of the university’s governing council, and found 15 had direct or indirect ties with the Communist Party or the Hong Kong government.

Apart from council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, they included HKU president Xiang Zhang, who is a member of the pro-establishment group Hong Kong Coalition, and former Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Brian Stevenson, one of six people appointed by Hong Kong’s leader.

“This clear conflict of interest likely biases their judgments and decisions toward a pro-CCP agenda and poses a menace to HKU’s academic freedom,” the report said.

A police officer was stabbed on July 1. Photo: Handout
A police officer was stabbed on July 1. Photo: Handout

It went on to suggest that since the national security law was imposed by Beijing in June last year, university management had made at least six decisions which potentially violated Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, as well as the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which stipulated the city’s social and economic systems would remain unchanged after it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The six incidents included the sacking of legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting over his criminal convictions for his role in the Occupy movement, and Li’s recent remarks that he would welcome a national security investigation into the students who passed the controversial resolution.

The report concluded HKU was “clearly in the grip” of the party, and urged the United States to consider launching an investigation into Zhang, an American citizen, to pre-empt him from “causing any security concern to the US given his conflict of interest”.

The university cut all ties with its student union. Photo: May Tse
The university cut all ties with its student union. Photo: May Tse

It also recommended that Washington consider taking action, under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act or other laws, against council members to “deter any threats against Western interests” under the pretext of academic activities conducted through HKU.

“The US government and her allies should meet with the universities who have frequent and deep collaborations with the University of Hong Kong to prevent penetration of the strategic fields and the theft of essential technology,” it added.

A source said the report would be sent to the US government, and institutions such as the Academia Sinica in Taipei and the University of California, Berkeley, in the hope sanctions would be placed on council members, including Zhang, who has qualifications from some of the bodies.

The researchers started writing the report in May without communicating with the student union, the source said, adding it was only the first chapter, and more would be compiled in the coming months.

The report also called on university ranking bodies to take notice, the international academic community to consider boycotting any collaboration with HKU and governments to establish a “lifeboat” scheme for students, researchers and scholars whose academic careers were cut short because of the authorities’ “oppression”.

Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, an Exco adviser who also sits on the HKU Court, the university’s legislative and supervisory body, condemned the report as an act which would “hurt the students, the university, as well as Hong Kong as a whole”.

“After the recent saga, we need to help students to calm down, and realise what is conducive to themselves, the university and Hong Kong,” Cheung said.

“But these five activists are inciting and encouraging people to continue in a radicalised path, and in the end it will be the young and the city which pay the price.”

The Post has contacted the university for comment.

Additional reporting by Chris Lau

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