A senior University of Hong Kong administrator on Thursday said he would welcome a national security investigation into a student group which passed a resolution mourning the death of a man who stabbed a police officer and then killed himself in Causeway Bay last week.
Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, chairman of the university’s governing council, also told the Post that management would look at whether members of the HKU Students’ Union Council should be expelled for approving the motion, which voiced appreciation for the lone assailant’s “sacrifice to Hong Kong”.
“The resolution is something indecent and not acceptable,” said Li, also a member of the city leader’s de facto cabinet, the Executive Council.
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“They [union council members] are basically supporting violence and the attack on July 1, so we should let relevant authorities look into whether the new security law has been violated. They have to be accountable for what they have done.”
The Beijing-imposed national security law outlaws acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The maximum sentence for breaking the legislation’s most serious offences is life imprisonment.
HKU believed that such “radical” individuals formed “just a minority” of the student population, according to Li, who noted the governing council only found out about the resolution through media reports.
Earlier on Thursday, Li said HKU had reported the case to national security authorities but later clarified he meant the university would welcome any investigation.
Later, an HKU spokesman said: “The university has not made any report and is not aware of any individual from the university who has reported to national security authorities regarding the union council’s resolution.”
The Security Bureau and Hong Kong’s education minister joined HKU in condemning the student leaders on Thursday.
The resolution was passed by the students’ council, which oversees the running of the union and acts as bridge between the body and university management, at a meeting a day earlier.
Thirty of the 32 council members in attendance voted in favour of the motion, according to the university’s Campus TV, with the other two abstaining.
“The union council expresses its deep sadness at the death of [the man]; offers its sympathy and condolences to his family and friends; appreciates his sacrifice to Hong Kong,” the resolution read, according to student publication Undergrad.
A Security Bureau spokesman denounced the student group in a statement, without directly naming the body.
The spokesman described the July 1 attack as a cold-blooded terrorist act, and criticised the student organisation for referring to the assailant’s “sacrifice” while also offering condolences to his family.
“[The resolution] confuses right and wrong and is an attempt to deceive members of the public,” he said, telling the students they had let down their parents, university and society at large.
“This clearly reflects the importance of national security education and [the government’s] supervision over education institutions,” the spokesman added, citing Article 9 of the national security law, which requires the administration to step up its oversight in these areas.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said the council had “failed to distinguish right from wrong” and its actions should be “sternly denounced”.
The assailant in the July 1 attack stabbed the police officer on a busy Causeway Bay street before turning the knife on himself, on the same day Hong Kong marked the 24th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty.
The student union passed its resolution just hours after Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu, Hong Kong’s deputy leader, denounced those he called apologists for terrorism as “sinners for 1,000 years”.
In a thinly veiled rebuke to HKU legal scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun, the former security chief singled out people with law backgrounds, and demanded they stop downplaying the damaging effects of radical criminality.
An HKU spokesman condemned the union council for using its name to “whitewash violence and violent attacks”.
“The portrayal of the stabbing of a police officer and the suicide of the attacker as a ‘sacrifice’ sends a totally wrong message to society,” he said. “The university condemns all forms of violence and opposes any speech or acts that promote and justify violence.”
Charles Kwok Wing-ho, the union’s president, said students would meet later on Thursday to decide if they would respond to the university.
The Police Force Council Staff Associations said the university must handle the matter seriously to let “every single student involved in the case know the gravity of their mistakes”. The association added a lenient approach would allow universities to become a “hotbed of terrorism”.
In a letter to school heads and teachers at primary and secondary schools, education chief Yeung slammed the HKU Students’ Union Council for expressing “appreciation” for Leung.
He also echoed recent remarks by security minister Chris Tang Ping-keung, who said parents who brought their children to mourn Leung at the scene “went against the prevailing morals”.
“We must strongly condemn criminals as well as those troublemakers who try to intoxicate our teenagers. We must take steps to protect our pupils,” Yeung wrote in the letter.
Furthermore, the education minister urged schools to improve the way students were taught the importance of obeying the law, as well as “correct” values, positive thinking, emotional management and interpersonal skills.
According to Undergrad’s Facebook page, student representatives observed a moment of silence at Wednesday’s meeting. While one post told people to “remember the truth”, another paid tribute to the attacker.
Kinson Cheung King-sang is the current chairman of the council, which counts more than 40 student representatives as members.
The episode has underscored the already uneasy relationship between the union and university. Earlier this year, HKU distanced itself from the student group over accusations the “increasingly politicised” body had used the campus to spread “propaganda”.
While police have classified the attack as attempted murder and suicide, security chief Tang has called it a “lone wolf-style act of domestic terrorism”.
Earlier this week, Hong Kong’s national security police arrested nine people, most of them teenagers, over an alleged terrorist plot by a pro-independence group to bomb courts, tunnels and streets in a series of attacks.
Additional reporting by Chan Ho-him
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