Hong Kong lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu has received an honorary doctorate from a Beijing university, after being stripped of a similar award by his British alma mater.
Ho was described as a “patriot” in a press release from the China University of Political Science and Law, while the state-run tabloid Global Times said the lawyer was given the degree to “recognise his outstanding contribution and achievements in the legal sector”.
Friday’s ceremony came after Anglia Ruskin University revoked Ho’s honorary doctorate in October after complaints by local pro-democracy supporters and David Alton, who sits in the UK’s House of Lords.
The complaints centred on Ho shaking hands with members of a group allegedly linked to an indiscriminate attack on train passengers and anti-government protesters at Yuen Long railway station in July. Ho has denied any prior knowledge of the attack.
About 100 men in white T-shirts wounded at least 45 people with wooden canes and metal rods during the incident on July 21.
The British university’s decision sparked fierce criticism in Beijing, with state broadcaster CCTV issuing an online commentary headlined, “It is an honour for Junius Ho to be stripped of his honorary doctorate”.
In attacking Anglia Ruskin University, the writer said: “I suggest the mainland universities grant Mr Ho an honorary doctorate, and let the British university see that patriotism is the highest honour of our Chinese!”
Writing on his social media account on Friday, Ho said: “The honour today is not to make up for the loss of mine, and not to be rewarded exclusively to me, but to all ‘real’ Hong Kong people who love the country and Hong Kong.”
Ho, speaking on Saturday with mainland media, said he hoped his award could act as a “morale boost” for “patriots” in Hong Kong amid the ongoing chaos.
The reaction to Ho receiving the honour was split.
Mainland internet users wrote congratulations on Ho’s account on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, some leaving messages calling the lawmaker “a pride of China”, while others said “our country would not allow our patriots to be aggrieved”.
In contrast, online users in Hong Kong mocked the “compensation” on the LIHKG platform. “Is there any difference from rubbing salt into his wound?” one user wrote, while another added: “It just shows a mainland certificate has no more legitimacy than trash.”
According to the official webpage of the China University of Political Science and Law, Hong Kong’s former secretary for justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie and the late rural kingpin Lau Wong-fat were also awarded honorary doctorates.
Ho earlier claimed he was blindsided by the decision by his British alma mater, but a university letter obtained by the Post showed he was personally informed on October 28 when it rescinded the award, and was warned two years ago by the university he could be stripped of his honorary doctorate amid concerns over statements he had made.
The lawmaker drew condemnation from across the political spectrum when he told a public rally in September 2017 that advocates of Hong Kong independence should be “killed mercilessly”. Police investigated the remarks but declined to press charges the following April, citing a lack of evidence.