Early this month, a group of students staged a peaceful demonstration at the Congregation of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) but they were unjustifiably suppressed by the University, which was the same as what happened before in the HKU and City University. Four students, protesting against an earlier merciless statement made by Jack Ma Yun (Founder and Chairman of Alibaba Group, who said in an interview with the media before, that Deng Xiao-ping made the right call in ordering the deaths of hundreds of Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989), managed to unfurl a banner and interrupt Dr Ma’s speech when the university was conferring an honorary doctorate upon him. The banner was finally removed and destroyed by the security guards of the University by force. Our Union condemns HKUST suppressing the students?rights of freedom of speech and expression, and we urge the authority to look into this incident and prevent the same case from happening again in the future.
A video shot provided by the demonstrators shows that when these four students unrolled the banner which read “The spirit of the June Fourth Incident must not be cheaply sold”, the security guards at the scene removed the banner by force and without any justifications. When the first banner was torn off, another new banner was made immediately and unfurled again. However, in several tens seconds, more than ten security guards surrounded those students, grabbed the new banner from the students and destroyed it. We think that the University which used unreasonable violence against the weaponless students did not put students?safety into consideration.
A HKUST spokesman replied to the media that the students were advised to stop their protest as the University did not want the graduation ceremony being interrupted, and this was totally out of students’ safety reason. However, according to the students, a man who was believed not to be school’s security staff, instructed a security guard to remove the banner, due to the fact that the words on the banner could not be demonstrated. After the incident, the safety reason to which the security guard attributed the removal of the banner, was only a disguise. This incident triggered off again our suspension whether the freedom has been stifled in the campus from time to time, and whether this was already a political suppression by the Authority.
After the incident, the students announced their declaration and expressed their deepest regret towards the conferrment of an honorary doctorate upon Jack Ma, and they reprimanded the university for suppressing students’ freedom of speech. In the declaration it is also pointed out that’s he conferrment should not only be based on one’s contributions to the institute or community. One’s own integrity and conscience should also be considered. If Jack Ma is not up to this standard, the University should not sell him an honorary doctorate, only out of his achievements on buisness. This decision will be a mockery, not only of the honorary doctorate, but also of the whole HKUST?
We think that the University, being a place which encourages freedom, should enhance students’ critical thinking, nurture students to take part in public affairs and to take care of the community. Therefore it is inacceptable that the university takes any violent or draconian measures to prevent students from expressing their own opinions. Fun