Hong Kong Baptist University students continue with protests alleging management indifference over arrest of fellow pupils

Yujing Liu

Students at a Hong Kong university have continued to protest on campus, despite the varsity president’s warning of disciplinary action against those who vandalised his office building two days ago.

About 50 students gathered at the Baptist University building containing the provost’s office on Wednesday afternoon, urging varsity president and vice-chancellor Roland Chin Tai-hong to respond to their demands, which included condemning police for the arrests of their fellow scholars.

Varsity vice-president Clayton Mackenzie told the protesting students that the institution’s managing officials could not meet them before next week, when Chin returned from an overseas trip.

At the student affairs’ office, associate vice-president Arthur Mak Fuk-tat spoke to the protesters, who were led by students’ union president Keith Fong Chung-yin, for more than an hour, and promised them he would write to Chin to convey their grievances to him.

Baptist University vice-president Clayton Mackenzie (centre) told the protesting students the institution’s managing officials could not meet them before next week. Photo: Dickson Lee

Mak also said he would urge Chin to condemn police action if he had indeed promised that to the protesters.

Fong and other students accused Chin of backtracking on his promise, as he reportedly told a student rally on August 7 he would condemn the force for Fong’s arrest.

Fong was detained twice last month, first for buying laser pointers and then on suspicion of theft. He was released without charge on both occasions.

Baptist University raises concerns over arrest of student reporter

The protesters also wanted the university management to condemn the arrest of journalism student Boaz So, who was allegedly covering anti-government protests as a campus reporter in Fortress Hill on Sunday night when police arrested him after finding a nine-inch knife in his bag.

At a separate news conference on Wednesday, So described his arrest as “unreasonable” but said he felt Chin and Lau had done for him whatever they could.

So declined to comment on the behaviour of his fellow students.

Keith Fong, president of the Baptist University Students’ Union, says the university’s management should strongly condemn police arrests. Photo: Dickson Lee

Hundreds of students marched on the campus on Monday, urging Chin to condemn police for So’s arrest and also to provide him every possible support. Later, a breakaway faction stormed the president’s office building and vandalised it.

They broke through two emergency doors and sprayed a surveillance camera with black paint. They also shouted abuse at two vice-presidents and several professors who tried to pacify them.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Chin criticised the students’ “abusive behaviour”.

Baptist University president hits out at ‘unruly’ student protest

“Recent incidents of abusive behaviour on our campus, both physical and verbal, are absolutely unacceptable and go against the collective aspirations of the university community,” Chin said.

He said Monday’s incident had undermined the university’s core value of respect for others.

“This is unacceptable. There can be no excuses. We will take action against the perpetrators, including initiating disciplinary procedures,” he wrote in an email.

Baptist University President Roland Chin urged students to respect other’s opinions and to ensure a safe campus where people could express their thoughts freely. Photo: David Wong

Chin also urged students to respect others’ opinions and to ensure a safe campus where people could express their thoughts freely and could take a stance on any issue without feeling threatened.

Chin and other varsity management officials had earlier expressed deep concern over So’s arrest and urged police to handle the matter fairly.

Some professors, including head of journalism department Lau Chi-kuen, described the arrest as “very unreasonable”.

Baptist University students threaten to besiege president’s office again

But a section of the students claimed the officials’ wording was too soft on police and not supportive enough for So, who was released on a HK$500 (US$64) bail on Monday night. So said he used the knife to cut mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival and had forgotten to take it out of his bag.

Lau, who was present at So’s news conference, again took the opportunity to call the arrest “unreasonable”.

More than 450 former students of the HKBU’s School of Communication had earlier urged Lau to step down for his “indifference” to So’s arrest.

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