Hong Kongs Oldest University Orders Tiananmen Statue Removal

Pro-democracy activists have for years rallied around the pillar to maintain the collective memory of the Tiananmen massacre, its pain and grief. Before the passage of the National Security Law in June 2020, Hong Kong was the only place in China that permitted such commemorative acts.

The pillar holds particular historical, political and cultural significance to Hong Kong’s students, who view the collective commemoration of June 4 as integral to the democratic future of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s universities have historically championed critical thinking, giving students and faculty the space to openly deliberate contentious political and moral issues and to examine state-sanctioned ideas and values. They have produced great intellectuals, activists and organizers deeply engaged in creating a more democratic political future (including one of us, Alex Chow, who was jailed for his role leading the 2014 Umbrella Movement pro-democracy demonstrations).

Every year, students from the University of Hong Kong have cleaned the pillar, paying special attention to the words engraved at the bottom: “The old cannot kill the young forever.

Student unions, in particular, have served as launchpads for many activists.

Their power has long been recognized: During the Sino-British negotiations about Hong Kong’s future in the 1980s, the Chinese Communist Party viewed the student unions as an asset to help propagate the idea of returning Hong Kong to its motherland. After the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, student unions led the charge to cut ties with Beijing. In the past 10 years alone, student groups shepherded the 2012 anti-national education movement, the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the 2019 anti-extradition-bill movement.

Now university administrations in Hong Kong are punishing students for voicing dissenting views on campus. By abandoning their neutral role and dedication to free speech, the universities have gone from realms of political enlightenment to theaters of state surveillance and policing.

Taken together, the removal of the pillar and the incapacitation of the student unions amount to effectively uprooting Hong Kong’s civil society. Both academic and political freedoms suffer with their forced absence.

Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/24/opinion/hong-kong-university-china.html

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