Battles over indy banners

Local | Amy Nip 7 Sep 2017

Hong Kong independence banners have been the object of a tug of war on university campuses, with mostly mainland students tearing them down as soon as they were put up.

On Monday, unidentified Chinese University students strung up "Hong Kong independence" banners on campus. The banners were removed before the inauguration ceremony, as the university indicated it did not support independence and the banners were against rules.

But the removal sparked a wave of defiance as students from the University of Hong Kong, Polytechnic University, City University, Education University and Shue Yan University put up banners and posters on their campuses a day later. At CUHK, students put up "Fight for our homeland. Fight for Hong Kong independence" posters on a "democracy wall" managed by the student union.

A student who could not speak Cantonese was captured in a three- minute video tearing down a poster before she was stopped by a student unionist on Tuesday night.

"Is there any problem? If you can put it up, I can pull it down," she said in English. The student said she did not agree with what was said on the poster, and questioned who authorized the union to put the posters on the wall. When the unionist suggested she could put up a poster expressing her opposition to independence advocacy instead of tearing other posters down, she disagreed and walked away.

At Education University, the student union put up an independence banner at a square on Tuesday, but half an hour later a Putonghua-speaking student tore it down.

The female student damaged the rope and canvas of the banner, leaving without responding to unionists.

At City University, students put up a poster saying "If you remove one independence poster, we will put up 10" yesterday. Security staff reacted promptly, tearing out the word "independence" from the poster.

Taking down the posters would be against freedom of expression, several student unionists said.

But lawyer Maggie Chan Man-ki said promotion of independence could be considered a "seditious intention," which is against the Crimes Ordinance.

A seditious intention is an intention to bring into hatred or to excite disaffection against the government of Hong Kong; or to excite inhabitants of Hong Kong to attempt to procure the alteration, other than by lawful means, of any other matter in Hong Kong as by law established.

A first conviction would lead to a fine of HK$5,000 and imprisonment of two years.

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