Hong Kong police and education authorities have joined a chorus of criticism from mainland media aimed at Chinese University’s student union, which they accused of glorifying violence in a Facebook post about the clashes at the campus during last year’s anti-government protests.
The firestorm of criticism – dismissed by the union’s president – was set off by a “Letter to Freshmen” posted by the student union looking back at university students’ participation in last year’s protests and the subsequent occupation of, and clashes at, Chinese University’s campus last November.
Anyone or any group should not cover up or glorify violence to mislead others to agree or take part in it under the pretext of freedom of speech or academic freedom
Hong Kong’s Education Bureau
The letter, posted on August 13 on the student union’s Facebook page, told freshmen the reason Chinese University had been able to keep its academic freedoms was because students and other Hongkongers had “defended the campus by using their bodies to resist bullets and water cannon”.
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The union’s article added: “As a member of the university, you are also the chosen ones. From today, the spirit of Chinese University, and the mission of safeguarding the campus, is passed on to you.”
In a statement on Tuesday, however, Hong Kong police accused the student union of trying to “talk black into white, and glorifying and romanticising rioters’ violence”.
In a statement of its own, the Education Bureau said: “Anyone or any group should not cover up or glorify violence to mislead others to agree or take part in it under the pretext of freedom of speech or academic freedom.”
Both sets of comments followed hot on the heels of a commentary published by China’s official Xinhua news agency on Monday criticising the union’s letter as being a “brainwashing essay” that was “full of evil intentions and malice”.
The commentary maintained the campus had been turned into a “dead city” in the November clashes, and claimed students’ occupation of the university was linked to anti-China and anti-Hong Kong elements who wanted to use them as “cannon fodder” and “political fuel”.
Speculation, meanwhile, has been brewing over a possible resurgence of anti-government actions on Hong Kong campuses.
Earlier this month, the University of Hong Kong student union placed an advertisement on the front page of the Apple Daily in support of the newspaper and its owner, high-profile Beijing critic Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who was arrested and saw his paper raided by police over alleged violations of the city’s sweeping Beijing-imposed national security law.
In a Facebook post on Monday, the state-run People’s Daily accused the students of trying to spread the idea of Hong Kong independence – advocacy for which is now illegal under the new law – dismissing their moves as political manipulation aimed at giving a boost to the city’s opposition camp.
Chinese University’s Sha Tin campus was the scene of violent clashes between radical protesters and police last November at the peak of months of anti-government protests triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The five-day occupation started when protesters disrupted traffic on the nearby Tolo Highway and trains on the East Rail line by dropping objects from a bridge at the university. Police attempts to enter were repelled in a fiery stand-off, which saw petrol bombs and tear gas exchanged, before protesters eventually fled or surrendered on November 15.
Chinese University student union chairman Owen Au Cheuk-hei said: “We can’t be frightened off. The authorities’ criticisms are nothing. We couldn’t care less about them. We will continue to do what we think is right to protect Hong Kong’s freedoms.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Chinese University reiterated that it opposed any form of violence and any illegal acts, adding it did not “like to see the university become a platform of political power struggle”.
Additional reporting by Chan Ho-him
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This article Hong Kong police, Education Bureau blast Chinese University student union post ‘glorifying’ violence during last year’s anti-government protests first appeared on South China Morning Post