Chinese University students wear masks and chant HK protest slogans during national anthem at graduation, forcing ceremony to be cut short

08-Nov-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A graduation ceremony at the Chinese University of Hong Kong was abruptly halted on Thursday after students wearing masks chanted slogans as the national anthem was being played.

The university decided to end the ceremony immediately after degrees had been conferred by vice chancellor Rocky Tuan because of “special circumstances”, a CUHK spokeswoman said.

“Verbal disputes broke out between those with different opinions, graffiti was sprayed on the campus and there were disruptions while the ceremony was taking place,” she said. “Therefore, after awarding all the degrees, the university decided to suspend the ceremony immediately.”

In his opening speech, Tuan expressed regret for what he called the “hateful action” of those who had “compromised the very nature of this ceremony”.

“This is a celebratory occasion, particularly for our graduates and their families, friends and guests,” he said. “On behalf of CUHK, I would like to express my deep regret for some of the compromises we have seen.”

The presentation for teaching and research awards, as well as professorship installation was skipped as a result of ending the ceremony.

When the national anthem was played at the beginning of the event, many students turned their backs on the stage, and some could be heard chanting slogans such as “liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times”, although they remained quiet throughout the rest of the ceremony. Many students also wore masks and held up banners.

At around 9.30am before the ceremony began, a man who claimed to be a student from mainland China waved a knife at a group of more than 300 students chanting slogans outside the venue of the congregation while he sang the Chinese national anthem.

When asked by reporters why he was holding a knife, he put it down and said he “wanted to protect himself, after seeing what happened at HKUST yesterday”.

He was swiftly taken away by university security guards. Police were called, according to CUHK.

On Wednesday evening, at a dialogue forum hosted by Wei Shyy, president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, chaos erupted when a student believed to be from the mainland pushed a Hong Kong student to the ground.

The trigger for the clash was unclear but the incident left at least four students injured, with one taken away in a wheelchair.

Earlier on Thursday, at 8.30am, more than 300 students gathered at the Goddess of Democracy at the bottom of the campus, before marching to the University Mall where the graduation ceremony was held.

Students held up long banners with “CUHK stands with Hong Kong” and “five demands, not one less”.

Meanwhile, dozens of the more than 1,000 HKUST graduates from two faculties wore masks on stage during their graduation to protest president Wei Shyy’s insufficient support for students arrested during the civil unrest.

They were also protesting his handling of the case of fellow student Chow Tsz-lok, 22, who suffered brain injuries after falling four metres from a car park during a police dispersal operation on Monday.

Some graduates did not nod or bow to Shyy, who was presiding over the ceremony, while others raised their hands a symbol of the five demands.

One student shouted in front of Shyy: “Hope rests with the people, change starts with struggle.” Graduates did however receive handshakes from the dean of their school, unlike Polytechnic University president Teng Jin-guang’s refusal last month to shake hands with two masked doctoral graduates on stage.

One graduate surnamed Cheng, 22, who wore a black mask on stage, said he wanted to send the message of “five demands, not one less” to Shyy. He said although he had nodded to Shyy to show respect, he hoped the president could “handle matters better, including listen more to students’ concerns and provide more help to arrested students”.

About 100 students, many wearing masks and dressed in black, staged a rally after the ceremony, chanting slogans as they marched back to the entrance of the university.

A mother of one graduate said she thought the order was “acceptable” during the ceremony.

“As parents, this is a day we have been waiting for more than 20 years,” she said. “We just hoped it would not become too chaotic.”

Chow, who was reported to have fallen from the third to the second floor of the car park at a residential estate in Tseung Kwan O during the early hours of Monday, remains in critical condition at Queen Elisabeth Hospital.

Earlier a group of students were stopped by police on the CUHK campus after a restaurant nearby was vandalised in the early hours of the morning.

According to police, a shop near University MTR station was spray-painted. Police on patrol saw about 10 people acting suspiciously in the area at around 3.40am, and questioned some but no arrests were made.

Jacky So Tsun-fung, president of CUHK’s student union, said police entered the campus at around 3.45am, and five members of the student union were among a group of seven or eight who were questioned by officers, who said they had chased the suspects onto university grounds.

Officers collected ID card information from the students, and left the campus around 4.05am, according to So.

“Four police offices were about to search the campus further, but were stopped by another officer,” So said.


Category: Hong Kong

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