Hong Kong Free Speech

Reporter: Susan Gao, Maggie Liu, Melissa Ko and Lloyd Hewitt-Robinson

Editor: Susan Gao and Melissa Ko

The Hong Kong independence banner saga continues at local universities after the student unions of 13 higher institutions issued a joint statement condemning Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and university authorities for “making an explicit effort” to limit free speech.

“The regime is now making an explicit effort to limit our freedom of expression through exerting pressure on university authorities to punish those whose speech may have intimidated the people in power,” the joint statement wrote.

Student unions reiterated, “everyone enjoys the freedom of speech, and this is the line that we shall never compromise.”

Last week, the banners declaring Hong Kong independence were put up on the Chinese University’s democracy wall, but later they were replaced with other banners while anti-independence posters were also put up.

This action has provoked a heated debate over the freedom of speech after the banners advocating Hong Kong independence were shown on noticeboards at various universities.

According to Amnesty International, freedom of speech applies to ideas of all kinds despite what may be offensive and it comes with responsibilities. The three universities, which are City University, Baptist University and Chinese University, all agreed that freedom of speech is the right to express one’s own ideas without censorship.

City University's student union external secretary, Ng Chung-hing, said, noticeboards managed by the student union, serve as a platform for student members to express their own opinions freely. The student union itself is independent from the university, which does not have the right to take down the posters.

Baptist University’s student union external secretary, Mak Kwan-wai, said, BU students are welcome to discuss whatever they want, including the Hong Kong independence issue because the principal promised that the school is not allowed to take down any poster without proper reasons.

When relating to nasty messages on noticeboards, the Chinese University student union external secretary, Thomas Lee Man-yiu, said, the student union has the responsibility to take down those insulting banners, whether it is about Hong Kong independence or the “One country, two system”, according to its regulation of democracy wall.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students standing committee member, Wong Kuen-yat, voiced his support for the joint statement, saying that students’ freedom of speech should be not violated by any authorities.

David Kong, who resides from Guangzhou, travelled all the way to the Chinese University to see the democracy wall, said, “students should be able to speak freely without pressure from the authorities.”

Chief executive Carrie Lam, said yesterday that there was no question of curbing the students’ freedom of speech or the university's’ academic and institutional autonomy, but a question of whether we are a compassionate society.

Bingley Bai, an undergraduate student from the Chinese University, said, “it is fine to discuss politics but there’s no need to take it so seriously. Never blend academics with politics. But I also think the university didn’t violate students’ rights of free speech. It only did that because students are easy to incite.”

The DAB party have deemed that the slogans of “Hong Kong independence” should not be allowed to appear and 39 pro-Beijing lawmakers signed a petition demanding that the government take action against the emergence of pro-independence banners on campuses.

 

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) is an English news publication produced by international journalism students at Hong Kong Baptist University. It started as a printed magazine in 1969. Today, TYR is produced across different platforms.

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