Protesters accuse HK school of ‘suppressing students’ with black face mask ban

15-Oct-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong kicked off another week with anti-government protests on Monday, as students in Chai Wan and Tseung Kwan O staged various demonstrations despite amber rainstorm warnings.

Under pouring rain, more than 100 students and alumni from Hon Wah College in Siu Sai Wan formed a human chain along Harmony Road, ignoring the Education Bureau chief’s warning last week that such acts “could constitute unlawful assembly”. The mid-rank school has about 700 students.

Hon Wah College students and alumni were protesting against the school’s alleged ban on black face masks. They chanted slogans and sang protest songs, many of them wearing face masks in defiance of the anti-mask law, which came into effect earlier this month.

“A student wearing a black mask was asked by school [authorities] to remove the mask without any reasonable grounds,” an alumnus read in a statement to the school, “School authorities have no right to ban students from wearing a black mask, as the anti-mask law is not applicable in school premises, this is an act of spreading ‘white terror’.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on October 4 invoked the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance to enact a ban on masks at all rallies regardless of whether the event has been authorised by authorities or not in a bid to ease social unrest ongoing for more than four months.

Monday’s school demonstrations followed a weekend of violence across a number of districts and shopping malls, where protesters of the anti-mask ban trashed pro-Beijing banks and restaurants.

At Hon Wah College, one former student prepared a letter for principal Kwan Wing-bun demanding the school not to restrict or penalise students wearing black masks. The school did not send a representative to pick up the letter, which was left on the school gate.

A form five student, who only gave her name as Y, said she wore a black mask to school last Tuesday the first day of classes after Lam introduced the law in protest. Y said she was asked by a teacher to remove the mask once she entered the school gates.

“I was asked along with two other students to remove our black masks once we entered the school gate, as the discipline teacher told us ‘not to bring politics into school’,” she recalled. “I was also feeling sick that day, so the teacher asked me to change my [black mask] into a surgical mask instead.”

Y said teachers also contacted her parents about her wearing the mask, “but luckily my mum was supportive”.

“This is an act of suppressing students,” she said, adding that she wore a surgical mask to school over the following days without issue.

Masked students and alumni said they had to voice their objection, despite “fears of being arrested”.

A 16-year-old form five student who gave his surname as Chan, said he felt “nervous” about wearing a mask for the human chain, but wanted to conceal his identity. He said wearing a mask was a “basic human right which should not be banned”.

Students from nearby schools came to Hon Wah College to show their support. A form six student surnamed Tang, 17, from Precious Blood Secondary School a few blocks away, joined the human chain.

“You need not be afraid. We stand in solidarity,” Tang said.

The Post has contacted Hon Wah College for response.

Meanwhile, in Tseung Kwan O, about 50 students of vocational training school, Hong Kong Design Institute, staged a sit-in to press management to release surveillance footage relating to the death of a 15-year-old female student.

The girl was known to have attended protests regularly. Some online users and her school mates suspected her death may have been in suspicious circumstances.

Police have said that an investigation, including an autopsy, found nothing suspicious about her death.

Chief Superintendent Kelvin Kong Wing-cheung said last week that the girl was not arrested during recent protests and that there was no wound or any sign of sexual assault on her body, but that the cause of death was still to be confirmed.

He said surveillance footage from her school, Youth College, showed she left her possessions on the campus before walking barefoot towards the waterfront near Tseung Kwan O on September 19. She was reported missing two days later and her body was found in the water on September 22, he said.

Jerry Kwok Lung-kei, principal of Youth College, addressed a crowd of more than 100 students at Hong Kong Design Institute. Both schools are run by the Vocational Training Council and share a campus.

He said the girl had missed school for two weeks in September before attending on September 16. When her belongings were handed into the school’s lost property on September 19, administrators contacted her family. Her family then called the police.

“We understand students care about this deeply. However, with regards to the release of CCTV footage, we need to respect the wishes of her family,” Kwok said.

Students, some dressed in black and wearing masks, were not satisfied with the response. They demanded the school release the footage or provide a sufficient response by 3pm or they will escalate actions.

“This is a human life. Do we still need to follow procedures?” A female student shouted.

School administrators said they would return with an update by 3pm.


Category: Hong Kong

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