University of HK president vows to condemn all violence at extradition bill protests after students accuse him of ‘singling out’ demonstrators who stormed Legislative Council

12-Jul-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The head of Hong Kong’s oldest university issued a clarification on Wednesday condemning all violence after a student petition demanded he retract a statement they said singled out protesters.

Amid the threat of campus demonstrations on Friday and Saturday, the University of Hong Kong President Zhang Xiang said he would condemn proven acts of violence committed “by any party” during the extradition bill unrest.

In the original statement issued on July 3, Zhang said he was “disheartened by the violence that occurred in the Legislative Council building and would like to condemn such destructive acts”.

It came two days after hundreds of mostly young protesters stormed the Legco complex, breaking glass doors, spraying slogans on the walls, covering Hong Kong’s official emblem with black paint, and tearing down portraits of the city’s political leaders. They left as riot police carried out a midnight clearance operation.

Protesters said they stormed Legco because the government ignored their demands, including the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, which would have allowed Hong Kong to surrender fugitives to jurisdictions which Hong Kong lacks an extradition agreement with, including mainland China.

Zhang was the first university president to comment on the storming of Legco. His critics said they were disappointed that the HKU chief’s statement seemed to have targeted young protesters, and ignored any possible excessive use of force by police in the past month.

The critics also suggested that statements by other university chiefs were milder than Zhang’s. For instance, in an email to students, staff and alumni last week, University of Science and Technology president Wei Shyy said that while violence should be condemned, he believed it was necessary to discuss the cause so as to address challenges in society. Chinese University president Rocky Tuan Sung-chi also said in his statement he was “saddened and distressed by the recent conflicts”, and proposed setting up a platform to enable constructive dialogue between the government and citizens from different age groups and backgrounds.

From Friday to Tuesday, 2,103 members of the HKU community signed a petition, urging Zhang to retract the original statement.

“Facing the deep crisis caused by the injustice of society, the president must act like a humanistic educationalist with sympathy and affection, and most importantly, make students’ safety the first priority,” the petition reads.

Receiving the petition from a group of some 20 students and alumni on Wednesday, Zhang said: “We, as a university and a community, are all against violence in any form, by anybody at any juncture.”

Asked by an alumnus, surnamed Yeung, whether he would also condemn the “violence” used by the police, Zhang said: “There will be an investigation as you have heard. If the investigation resulted that there was indeed violence… any violence by any party should be condemned.”


Category: Hong Kong

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