Date
12 November 2019
Masked students raised protest placards during the CUHK graduation ceremony on Thursday. Photo: CUHK Campus Radio/Facebook
Masked students raised protest placards during the CUHK graduation ceremony on Thursday. Photo: CUHK Campus Radio/Facebook

Student protests disrupt graduation rites at two universities

Students put on masks and shouted slogans as they staged pro-democracy protests during graduation ceremonies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) on Thursday.

The protest at CUHK prompted the school administration to bring the event to an early close after all the diplomas had been awarded.

At around 9 a.m., more than 300 students marched from the University MTR Station to the CUHK University Mall, the venue of the ceremony, and read out a statement expressing support for schoolmates who had been arrested in the anti-extradition bill movement.

Most of the students were wearing masks to go with their formal graduation attire, while others put on helmets and Guy Fawkes masks. They held up placards and banners that read “CUHK stands with Hong Kong” and “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times” as they marched to the venue of the ceremony.

The students chanted slogans demanding the government to meet the public’s five demands and reform the police force.

Outside the venue, a Mandarin-speaking man who claimed to be a CUHK student brandished a knife and started singing the national anthem, before he was taken away by security guards.

Shortly after the ceremony began, the graduating students raised protest placards as guests entered the venue. They turned their backs to the stage when the national anthem played.

In his speech, CUHK president and vice-chancellor Professor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi said he regretted that some of the students had defaced university property with protest graffiti and violated the solemn nature of the ceremony.

After Tuan finished his speech and the degrees were conferred, the university announced that the ceremony would be immediately suspended due to “special circumstances”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

The university head then left the hall, escorted by campus security, without responding to questions thrown by reporters.

The same scene played out at the HKUST graduation ceremony. As the national anthem was being played, many of the graduates wore black masks, shouted slogans and raised their hands to symbolize the five demands, while some people outside the venue chanted “Liberate HKUST!”

On Wednesday evening, HKUST president Professor Shyy Wei held a forum with students, teachers and staff at the campus, noting that he had paid another visit to the hospital where a 22-year-old HKUST student remained in critical condition after falling from height during a police dispersal in Tseung Kwan O on Monday.

Some students asked Shyy to condemn police brutality, but he did not directly respond to the request.

But the forum descended into chaos as scuffles erupted between local and mainland students.

Students also surrounded a white-clad man, whom they accused of shoving others to the ground.

Security staff arrived and took the man to the security center at the campus.

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HKUST holds a graduation ceremony at the campus on Thursday. Photo: i-Cable News video screenshot