Student unions from eight tertiary institutions in Hong Kong said they will not take part in a meeting arranged by the government if it is to be held behind closed doors.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has invited youth representatives, including students, in an effort to resolve a political crisis resulting from widespread protests against her now-suspended extradition bill, her office said.
The Hong Kong leader has said she wants to reach out to the young generation as part of her efforts to listen to the people and understand their sentiments.
But in a joint media conference on Friday morning, student representatives presented two conditions before they would consider meeting with her: the government must drop charges against those who joined the anti-extradition bill campaign, and the meeting must be open and transparent to allow people from various sectors of society to participate.
The student union representatives, who expect the government to respond to their demands as soon as possible, are from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), University of Hong Kong (HKU), City University of Hong Kong (CityU), Hong Kong Baptist University and Education University of Hong Kong (EduHK).
In a statement on Thursday, the HKUST student union said it had rejected an invitation from the Lam administration to attend a closed-door meeting through the senior management of the school, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
The HKUST student union said in another statement on Friday morning that it is disappointed with the government’s refusal to have an open dialogue with citizens.
Since various sectors of society are opposing the government’s legislative proposal that would allow extradition to mainland China, the dialogue with the administration must include representatives from all sectors, the union said.
It must be open to members of the public as well, the statement said.
The union also insisted that the government must respond to the people’s standing demands – completely withdraw the extradition bill, cancel all the charges against the protesters, take back the categorization of the clashes in Admiralty on June 12 as a “riot”, establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the police use of force in the clashes, and immediately implement genuine universal suffrage.
Anson Yip, vice-president of the CUHK student union, said it was told by the school on Wednesday night that it had been invited to the meeting, although the meeting’s form and agenda were not provided.
Yip said the union would not attend any closed-door meeting.
Student unions of CityU and PolyU said they had not received an invitation for the meeting as of Thursday night.
After receiving the responses from the HKUST and CUHK student unions, the Chief Executive’s Office said on Thursday night that Lam is now planning to spend more time meeting in person with people of different backgrounds.
It is better for the meeting to be held in a “small-scale and closed-door manner” to facilitate an “in-depth and frank exchange of views”, according to Lam’s spokesperson, who said the chief executive hopes the student leaders will reconsider joining the meeting, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, university heads said it’s time to calm down and pursue dialogue in the wake of the violence resulting from the extradition bill saga.
In a letter to students and teaching staff on Thursday, Lingnan University president Prof. Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon voiced concern over the recent social conflicts – the storming of the Legislative Council complex, in particular.
He said various sectors of society have different views, but they should not resort to violent acts, which cannot be tolerated.
He said he hopes people from all sides can set aside their disagreements and sit down to work things out through rational dialogue.
In a separate letter, EduHK president Prof. Stephen Cheung Yan-leung said “most would agree that continued confrontations and the use of violence will not in any way help resolve the current impasse plaguing” the city.
He urged the government to take the initiative and listen sincerely to the people’s “voices and aspirations”.
HKU president and vice-chancellor Prof. Zhang Xiang said in a statement he “would like to condemn” the “destructive acts” that took place at the Legco complex on Monday.
The HKU student union demanded that Zhang retract his remarks, saying they were aimed at flattering the regime.
At the Baptist University, more than 2,000 students, teachers and alumni issued a joint statement calling on the school’s associate vice-president Yeung Chee-kong to resign, saying he has failed to keep the “moral bottom line” as an education worker.
Yeung wrote in a newspaper article on June 27 that the anti-extradition bill movement is being orchestrated by the West and that the protesters are as a well-trained group of people.
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