23 July 2019
The poster  'congratulated' Christine Choi on the death of her son, who was found dead on Thursday in an apparent suicide. Photo: HKEJ
The poster 'congratulated' Christine Choi on the death of her son, who was found dead on Thursday in an apparent suicide. Photo: HKEJ

School campus becomes battleground for political struggle

No one would have expected that an offensive message targeting Undersecretary for Education Christine Choi posted on the democracy wall at the Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) would develop into a political storm.

As it turned out, Beijing loyalists took the opportunity to condemn the students.

It is likely that the pro-Beijing camp will now encourage local universities to tighten their grip on campus freedom by stressing the importance of political correctness above all else. That said, the loyalists want to limit the freedom enjoyed by the students after the incident.

It all began when a poster “congratulated” Choi on the death of her son, who was found dead on Thursday in an apparent suicide. 

The message was posted on the democracy wall of EdUHK’s campus on Friday. Similar messages relating to Choi sprang up around other campuses, including City University, over the weekend.

Written in simplified Chinese, a separate poster read: “Congratulate rebel Liu Xiaobo. Celebrate Liu Xia being under house arrest by our party forever.”

EdUHK condemned the poster on Liu but the tone was much weaker than that on the Choi incident.

The school’s president, Stephen Cheung, did not meet the press to air his criticism. Chief Executive Carrie Lam did not express her concern over the Liu poster. By contrast, she had held a press conference last week to condemn the Choi incident, saying the poster was “extremely callous and insulting” and the remarks about Choi were “entirely disrespectful, against moral values of society and cold-blooded”.

The pro-Beijing camp is keen to raise public awareness over the incident in a bid to pressure school authorities into throwing out the students involved.

The politicians are trying their best effort to escalate the issue and intervene in the school administration. Beijing loyalists not only mobilised their supporters to protest outside the campus against the two people involved in the case, they also organised an online petition to press EdUHK to investigate the incident.

Some pro-Beijing organizations even published a statement in newspapers to force the university to follow up on the case. 

It’s great to hear that Prof. Cheung would not report the incident to the police. He said if students of the university were behind the posters, he will let the institution’s disciplinary committee deal with them.

EdUHK chairman Frederick Ma said education should not be mixed in with politics, indirectly responding to the pro-Beijing camp’s campaign to raise the incident to next level.

There are rumors that more than 500 headmasters of local schools would sign a petition to stop recruiting EdUHK graduates. Others said that some schools had stopped the internship of some EdUHK students.

Meanwhile, EdUHK denied it had allowed the leak of a CCTV screenshot showing the faces of the two suspects posting the messages.

The mindset of the pro-Beijing camp is quite different from that of the general public in that the former wants to win in all issues and on all fronts.

For instance, the disqualification of several lawmakers was pushed by the pro-Beijing camp and Beijing accepted.

This time, they are aiming to remove the two students who allegedly put up the posters on the EdUHK campus. But the real target is to suppress the growing mindset of Hong Kong independence in school campuses.

The appearance of Hong Kong independence banners around campuses last week during the school opening triggered Beijing loyalists to show their teeth.

It’s quite difficult to understand why the entire establishment, from the chief executive to school authorities and lawmakers are coming down on the two suspects in this saga without any details on their identity.

The Choi incident may be just the start of Bejing’s intervention in local education affairs, and the target is to suppress dissent and a growing independence mindset.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe