Two students of the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) have been suspended, pending an investigation into their protests against a mandatory Putonghua proficiency test last week, Apple Daily reports.
Roland Chin Tai-hong, president and vice chancellor of the school, announced on Wednesday that the duo – student union president Lau Tsz-kei and Andrew Chan Lok-hang, a fifth-year student at the HKBU School of Chinese Medicine – were barred from classes with immediate effect for breaching the students’ code of conduct by making teachers feel insulted and threatened.
They will be temporarily suspended until the disciplinary committee finishes its investigation into the incident, Chin said, adding that his decision was based on what he saw in video clips that were taken during the protest.
On Jan.17, more than 10 students, including Lau and Chan, stormed into the university’s language center to protest the lack of transparency in a Putonghua course exemption test. They occupied the place for eight hours.
A standoff happened between the protesting students and some female staff. A video clip shows Lau using foul language while confronting the female staff.
Last year the university started to require students to pass the test so that they can be exempted from taking the Putonghua course, which is a requirement for graduation.
The students opposed the Putonghua proficiency test as a graduation requirement and criticized its lack of transparency. They asked the university to abolish both the course and the test.
Lau has apologized for his attitude during the protest, but said he was shocked to learn that he had been suspended before any investigation was launched. He suspected that the university wanted to make an example of him.
Chan, who was also appalled by Chin’s decision, said he has been frequently receiving threatening messages online since the protest, but it seems that the school does not care about it and has focused on having him suspended instead.
Professor Lo Ping-cheung, associate dean of HKBU’s Faculty of Arts, said he felt sorry that some people were calling for the protesters’ expulsion from the university. He also bewailed the shift of focus to the protesting students from the serious and absurd incidents involving senior government officials who can get away with illegal acts.
Meanwhile, two student members of the HKBU Council are planning to launch a boycott of classes on Friday afternoon to show their support for the suspended duo.
The student unions of several other universities also issued a joint statement criticizing the students’ suspension.
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