The University of Hong Kong’s student-run Campus TV has apologised and removed a controversial video hours after senior management condemned it for containing hate speech directed at mainland Chinese students.
In the two-minute clip, a parody of HKU’s official welcome video for new students, the institution was described as the “University of Xiang Gang” – the Mandarin romanisation of the city – while mainland students were referred to as “spies of the Big Brother”.
News footage of an elite mainland student who received a scholarship from HKU this year was included, along with the words: “We are especially proud to have a Gaokao [the mainland’s university entrance exam] arts top scorer achieving a B+ in history [to earn] over a million dollars [in scholarships].”
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The video also criticised the university’s sacking of law scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting as “based on political interests”.
In a statement on Wednesday, a day after the video was posted on social media platforms, HKU’s senior management team, including president Xiang Zhang, said the film’s depictions of a “specific group of the university’s students were particularly offensive, hurtful, insensitive and unfair”.
The statement, which was also sent to the chairman of Campus TV, demanded the removal of the video from all platforms, and an apology from the producer to all members of the HKU community.
It added that “hatred, bullying and bigotry cannot be disguised as freedom of speech” and the “production and dissemination of malicious views or attacks on members of the university will not be tolerated”.
By producing the video, we did not aim to attack anyone. It was merely a form of political satire and parody, which hoped to point out that students’ voices had been repeatedly ignored
Campus TV apology statement
HKU architecture dean Chris Webster also sent a letter to faculty students, staff and alumni a few hours before the senior management statement, saying the video was in “poor taste” and “highly offensive”, adding the university would look into whether those who made and distributed the video had committed any offences.
Within hours of the management statement, Campus TV issued a response early on Thursday admitting to the use of “inaccurate wording” in the clip, and apologised to all those who were affected by the video, which was removed from its social media platforms.
“By producing the video, we did not aim to attack anyone,” the statement said. “It was merely a form of political satire and parody, which hoped to point out that students’ voices had been repeatedly ignored by HKU management, including [regarding] the allocation of resources, which favours mainland Chinese students.
“We apologise for the inaccuracy in the use of words in the clip, which had caused misunderstanding … We [also] pledge to pay more attention to the way we express our messages in the future.”
Former city leader Leung Chun-ying, who acted as HKU’s ex officio chancellor during his term as chief executive from 2012 to 2017, also weighed in on the row on Thursday, criticising the video for having a “clear intent to attack school management and mainland Chinese students”.
“There is a bottom line for freedom of speech in any place around the world. By exploiting that, there can be legal and other consequences,” Leung wrote on Facebook.
Some of the [freshman students from mainland China] are actually pro-democracy, but this might make them change their mind
Wang Zixu, mainland student at HKU
The incident sparked mixed views from HKU students. “I was a bit unhappy when I saw the news reports,” said Wang Zixu, a master’s student from mainland China who has just started his first year at the university’s school of journalism and media studies.
“Mainland students have many different viewpoints, and even if they are pro-government, they should not be attacked like this,” he said.
“Some of the [freshman students from mainland China] are actually pro-democracy, but this might make them change their mind about supporting the cause. It is like bad public relations,” he added.
A second-year local student studying medicine, who only wished to be known as Phoebe, said she did not think the video had a large effect on campus.
“At least among my circle, no one is really discussing it, and as far as I know, not many people actually watch Campus TV content,” she said. “I occasionally see the videos on the school televisions, and the content does tend to be slightly biased, but it’s not up to me to tell them what to do.”
Although most international students at Hong Kong universities come from across the border, relations between Hong Kong and mainland students have been particularly tense in recent years, primarily due to differences in cultural and political views.
Quarrels and clashes between the two groups have occasionally erupted on local university campuses, including during last year’s anti-government protests.
More from South China Morning Post:
- ‘Hate speech’ student video directed at new mainland Chinese arrivals at Hong Kong university condemned by school heads
- PolyU shoots up in Britain-based higher education rankings, while HKU remains top university in Hong Kong despite drop
This article Hong Kong University’s student-run Campus TV apologises, pulls video aimed at mainlanders after school officials condemn ‘hatred, bullying and bigotry’ first appeared on South China Morning Post