Shortly after banners calling for Hong Kong independence were removed from the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, similar banners and posters appeared in other local universities, Apple Daily reports.
But like what happened at CUHK, the protest signs in at least four universities were immediately removed by staff of those insitutitions.
In one poster displayed at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU), security personnel removed the Chinese characters for “independence”, leaving only the words “Hong Kong”.
After the CUHK administration said the banners were illegal, the Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) quickly followed suit, declaring in a statement that the banners were against the Basic Law.
For its part, CityU said it will not tolerate illegal behavior.
Lai Hiu-ching, chair of the EdUHK student union, said students put up the banners to support the CUHK student union and criticize the school’s move, which violates freedom of speech and academic autonomy in the university.
Security guards at EduHK said they had received “orders” to remove the banners and did so at night, Lai said.
Lai said the “democracy board” on the campus should be a place where teachers and students could express their views freely.
“If they believe the students have broken the law, they should definitely call the police instead of removing the banners themselves,” he said.
Barrister and Executive Council member Ronny Tong Ka-wah insisted that putting up banners and other signs calling for independence was illegal, citing Article 9 of the Crimes Ordinance, and violators could face a jail term of up to two years if convicted.
Tong said under Article 9, violations include “seditious intent” to bring hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of Her Majesty, or her heirs or successors, or against the Hong Kong government, or even “to raise discontent or disaffection amongst Her Majesty’s subjects or inhabitants of Hong Kong”.
He said that after the handover, the central government adopted the ordinance and replaced “her majesty” with themselves, making the act of putting up the banners a violation of the law.
But Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit, who is also a barrister, said that except for laws that were made before the handover under the British rule, he does not see how the banners at CUHK are against the law.
He said some of the laws are so old and full of colonial intent that they are not applicable in modern-day context.
He said he does not think the Chinese government would use the law to go after the CUHK students as it would mean that China is ruling Hong Kong like “a colonial place”.
The Staff-Student Centres Management Committee has told CUHK student union chairperson Justin Au Tsz-ho that the banners violate Hong Kong laws and contradict the university’s stand of not supporting Hong Kong independence.
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