While the Legislative Council has yet to enact a Beijing-mandated law criminalizing disrespect of the national anthem, a local higher education institution has shown its stance on the matter: it booted out students who failed to stand up while the anthem was being played.
The incident happened at the Hong Kong College of Technology (HKCT) campus in Ma On Shan on Saturday.
While the March of the Volunteers was being played at the start of a graduation ceremony, two of the graduands refused to stand up as told, and one them even crossed his arms across his chest, hk01.com reports.
The situation prompted the school management to suspend the ceremony and order the two to leave. They did and about 10 other graduates also left with them to show their protest.
The ceremony resumed after being disrupted by the incident.
It is understood the school had told the students during a rehearsal of the ceremony not to show any disrespect when the national anthem was played, warning they may not be able to walk up on stage for the awarding of their certificates.
But several students thought the warning was a violation of their freedom of expression, and to show their discontent, they refused to stand up while the anthem was being played during the ceremony proper.
HKCT president and principal Chan Cheuk-hay said the school never deprives students of the opportunity to learn regardless of their political stance, which is why the students should respect the school’s policy on the matter if they want theirs to be respected.
One of the two students kicked out of the ceremony said Chan has chosen to implement the national anthem law even before it is legislated.
The student said the school management has been trying to prevent students from expressing their opinions freely. For example, he said, any material to be posted on the school’s “democracy wall” must have prior approval from the school management.
The students who left the ceremony later held a rally outside the graduation ceremony venue. They said they never had the chance to communicate with Chan directly and demanded a dialogue.
In response, Chan said he has always been in close contact with students and heard their opinions clearly, adding that he hopes the students will continue to learn more about society and the nation.
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