Date
23 October 2017
Peter Mathieson (holding microphone) talks to  student leaders last Wednesday. He compared their protest to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which nearly a hundred football fans died. Photos: HKEJ, Independent
Peter Mathieson (holding microphone) talks to student leaders last Wednesday. He compared their protest to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which nearly a hundred football fans died. Photos: HKEJ, Independent

Mathieson slammed for comments on HKU student protest

Civic Party chairperson Audrey Eu took the vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong to task for comparing last week’s student protest against the HKU governing council to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 football fans died.

In an open letter, Eu also accused Peter Mathieson of condoning the “slanderous” comments made by council chairman Arthur Li, who blamed her party for allegedly inciting the students to violence and said the protesters were “like someone who has taken drugs”.

But in his reply, Mathieson insisted he had not taken sides in the student protest but simply expressed concern over the safety of people, RTHK reported.

Eu later posted Mathieson’s reply on her Facebook page, in which the university official said the protest reminded him of the stampede that killed at least 96 people and injured hundreds during a football match at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, on April 15, 1989.

Mathieson said he was only concerned about safety when he was surrounded by protesters on Tuesday night and he believed their action could result in death or serious injuries.

Eu, however, took exception to the Hillsborough comparison, saying that while the football fans’ unruly behavior was first blamed for the incident, investigation later showed that the Liverpool police set up an environment that led to the tragedy.

She urged Mathieson to take a step back and think through the roots of the problems facing the university, instead of trying to put the blame on “mobsters”.

The HKU Students’ Strike Organizing Committee said the comparison made by their vice-chancellor between the students’ protest and the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy was unreasonable.

Mathieson said in his letter that he would not comment on Li’s remarks made at a news conference after the student protest, stressing that he is not taking sides on the issue.

He said he had great difficulty just trying to stand up while he was surrounded by students and he felt his safety was under threat during the protest.

He stressed that the behavior of the protesters was not acceptable and there was no need to conduct a protest.

Meanwhile, Eu was quoted in an Apple Daily report as saying that she agreed with Mathieson that safety is important but it does not mean other things are less important.

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EL/JP/CG

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