Hong Kong—The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) became part of the ongoing protests in the city earlier this week as a confrontation occurred, with students endeavouring to bar police from entering the university campus.
University officials suspended classes a fortnight earlier than the original schedule, but CUHK may yet continue to be the scene of further violence as students continue to gather there, reportedly collecting weapons including bows and arrows, according to a report from CNN.
Police claim that their aim in entering the campus was to prevent motorists for harm through the throwing of bricks on a bridge beside the campus. CUHK’s officials stepped in on Tuesday night, November 12, to ask the police to vacate the campus, which resulted in the teargassing of Rocky Tuan, the CUHK Vice-Chancellor, as he tried to approach the police for negotiations.
The university later released a statement saying that “places and facilities on the campus have been severely damaged.”
Protestors five demands
The protests, which saw millions of demonstrators gathering in earnest beginning from June of this year and have gone on to interrupt transportation, businesses and even classes at school, began with a demand from the demonstrators for the government to withdraw a contentious extradition bill, the Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill, which had been suspended by June 15.
But the demonstrators later expanded their cause to what they’ve termed as “5 demands” which are, 1) the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill; 2) a retraction from the government of the characterization of the priests as “riots”; 3) the release and acquittal of protestors who had been arrested; 4) an establishment of an independent commission to investigate police behavior during the protests and 5) the resignation of the Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, as well as full freedom to elect the city’s Legislative Council and Chief Executive.
CUHK—A ‘rioters’ university’
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, which is the second oldest university in the territory, is no stranger to controversy, or to members of its community standing up for a cause.
CUHK is known for being an “epicenter of protest activity” among the territory’s educational institutions, to the point that the state media of China has taken to calling it the “rioters’ university” — a name that CUHK’s students have taken for their own.
On November 13, the day after violent clashes erupted at CUHK, John Tse, Hong Kong’s police chief superintendent called CUHK “a bad omen” for the territory. He said, “A university is supposed to be a breeding ground for future leaders, but it has become a battlefield for criminals and rioters.”
CUHK was formally established in 1963, but its roots go further back. It was founded as a federation of three distinct colleges, Chung Chi College, New Asia College and United College, the oldest of which had been founded a few decades before CUHK’s federation.
The university made the news in 2010 when the student union was denied permission to establish a ‘Goddess of Democracy’ statue on the campus, on the grounds that the university needed to remain politically neutral.
The students, as well as the teaching staff, objected to this refusal, and the students declared that they were ready to fight for the statue to be established on campus “at all costs.”
University officials later reversed their stance, and eventually allowed the statue to be located at CUHK.
The Goddess of Democracy, long seen as a symbol of liberty, free speech and democracy had been a 10-meter-tall statue created during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests by pro-democracy forces, and then forcibly destroyed by soldiers on June 4, 1989. -/TISG