Legal expert gives up post after HKU ban on students

Finance | Sophie Hui 6 Aug 2021

Principal law lecturer Eric Cheung Tat-ming has resigned from the governing council of the University of Hong Kong, a day after it banned all 32 members of the student union from entering the campus over a motion glorifying a police stabber.

Speaking on a radio program yesterday, Cheung said he was very sad about the council's decision as the students had apologized and should be given a chance to rectify their mistake.

Cheung, who is also the director of clinical legal education at the HKU faculty of law, said he resigned on Wednesday night and did not attend the council's special meeting earlier.

He said he also did not get a discussion document and so could not provide his opinions before the meeting started. He only learned about the council's decision from news reports.

Asked if his resignation was related to the council's decision, Cheung only said he had "many considerations."

He added: "The students had made a mistake, but they apologized quickly. I feel very sad."

The decision to ban them was also made before a disciplinary committee reached a conclusion on the matter. There was no disciplinary inquiry for students to explain themselves.

The council said in its statement on Wednesday that allowing the student union members to continue their presence on campus would pose serious legal and reputational risks to the university.

But Cheung said he could not see what the legal risks would be as none of the students have been prosecuted, while the university has already cut ties with the union.

"Those students have done something and whether that constitutes illegal acts, under our system, there should be a presumption of innocence," Cheung said.

"In the past, even if someone on campus was involved in a criminal case, it's their personal matter. I can't see what serious legal risk there would be for the university," he said.

Cheung said the council's decision "stripped the students of their right to be students."

The council decided to bar all students who attended a student union council meeting on July 7 from setting foot on campus and using all university's facilities and services until further notice.

At that meeting, student representatives passed a motion to "express deep sadness" and "thank the sacrifice" of 50-year-old Leung Kin-fai, who knifed and wounded a police officer in Causeway Bay on July 1 and then stabbed himself to death.

Although the student union and its council members had retracted the motion, apologized and resigned a day later, the university declared that it would no longer recognize the union and ordered it to vacate its offices on campus.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying questioned Cheung on Facebook saying: "HKU students have committed offenses over and over again in recent years. Is it 'rectifying their mistakes' or allowing them to get away with what they did?"

Some HKU graduates launched an online petition yesterday, demanding the university revoke the penalties against the students on the basis of procedural and fairness issues.

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