Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung voiced support for the anti-independence statement jointly issued by the heads of 10 universities last week.
Yeung said their opinion was appropriate and consistent with that held by both the government and most Hong Kong citizens.
Condemning the abuse of freedom of expression on campus, the heads of the universities stressed in a joint statement on Friday that they do not support independence.
The move prompted student unions from 12 tertiary institutions, including seven public universities (except the Hong Kong Polytechnic University), to issue their own joint statement, saying their right to discuss independence is protected under Article 27 of the Basic Law.
Yeung said he is convinced the universities are capable of taking care of their internal affairs and his bureau will provide assistance, without specifying if he hopes to see pro-independence posters on campus removed immediately, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, who chairs the governing council of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), told a TV program that pro-independence students have basically shown the mindset of a loser because they are aware they can’t compete with their mainland counterparts in many ways and therefore try to use independence as a way to escape from reality.
The concept of Hong Kong independence clearly violates the Basic Law and is totally not feasible, Li said, stressing there is no room for discussion.
Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said local universities should avoid talking about Hong Kong independence on campus, especially at a time when the city is in a politically sensitive situation.
Lau warned universities that failure to wipe out pro-independence sentiment on campuses will jeopardize their autonomy as Beijing, the Hong Kong government and different sectors of society will definitely get involved.
Meanwhile, pro-democracy lawmakers slammed legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu for his behavior during a rally by Beijing loyalists at Tamar Park in Admiralty on Sunday.
During the rally, Yuen Long district councilor Tsang Shu-wo said pro-independence activists should be “killed”, to which Ho chanted in response: “Without mercy!”
Ho also urged HKU to sack its associate professor of law Benny Tai Yiu-ting for his role in the 2014 Occupy Movement.
In a joint statement on Monday, 22 lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp said Ho’s comments were so “cold-blooded” and overstepped the bottom line of freedom of speech and morals, and tantamount to encouraging the use of violence.
They also asked the police and the Department of Justice to take action on Ho, whom they accused of violating the law.
In response, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said whether Ho’s remarks constituted an offense would depend on the context in which they were made.
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