Clashes broke out at the Chinese University of Hong Kong after a dozen people gathered to make a statement at its democracy wall against Hong Kong independence.
The incident on Sunday afternoon was the latest development since banners emerged on campuses two weeks ago as students tried to defend their freedom of speech and confronted school officials, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Three people were seen tearing down a sign saying “Independence is the only way to refuse degradation” from the wall at around 1 p.m. on Sunday. An English-speaking woman also tore down several more posters.
A member of CUHK’s student union tried to stop them but failed.
Later, more than 10 members of a pro-Beijing group called Caring Hong Kong Power arrived at the scene, with a sign saying “Here is China” and demanded students remove pro-independence banners immediately.
CUHK security guards tried to disperse them only to meet resistance. Scuffles erupted and police were called in.
CUHK vice chancellor Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu said on Friday that the student union must take down pro-independence signs from the wall as soon as possible or the school will take action.
On the same day, the heads of 10 universities issued a joint statement, condemning the abuse of freedom of expression on campus and stressing they do not support independence.
Student unions from 12 tertiary institutions, including those of seven public universities (except the Hong Kong Polytechnic University), responded the next day with their own statement.
They said teachers and students are entitled to discuss independence according to freedom of speech that is protected by Article 27 of the Basic Law.
On Saturday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government will not tolerate any act that calls for Hong Kong independence, adding there should be reasonable restrictions when it comes to freedom of speech.
Ho Hon-kuen, a senior educator and chairman of Education Convergence, told a radio program on Sunday that he will not defend the freedom to discuss independence because advocating independence is against Article One of the Basic Law which states that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.
Winnie Tam Wan-chi, former chairwoman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, said those who display pro-independence signs may be breaking the law.
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