Mass 'Wuhan virus' e-mails spark ban for Lingnan union

Local | Carine Chow 10 Jun 2021

Carine Chow

Student unionists at Lingnan University have been banned from sending mass e-mails to students after they called Covid-19 "Wuhan virus" in a survey.

In a statement to students and staff on Tuesday, the university said the term was inappropriate and expressed regret over the unionists' refusal to change it.

Student unionists sent mass e-mails on Thursday to consult students about a new university requirement stipulating that for the coming academic year, students living in dorms must either be vaccinated or undergo testing for the coronavirus every two weeks.

The term "Wuhan virus" was used in the Chinese version of the online survey the student union sent, and this attracted complaints from some students, the university said.

"The university has looked into the complaints closely, and they were found to be valid. The university advised the student union that their Chinese term for Covid-19 has clearly offended some members of the university and urged them to revise the term," it said.

The liberal arts university also accused the union of becoming highly politicized in recent years, saying it "failed to carry out its function as a bridge between the students and the university."

It added: "The university has decided, with immediate effect, to suspend the privilege granted by the university for Lingnan University Student Union to send bulk e-mails using Lingnan's e-mail system, and reserves the right to take further action."

The union said on Facebook it regretted and resented the university's decision. It said the reaction was "ridiculous and bizarre."

"The school management's action has cut off the communication between the student union and students, which is unfavorable for discussions over school affairs," the union said.

The union argued that it had used the term "Wuhan virus" for more than a year without complaint. The union said there were different names for the coronavirus, and the term "Wuhan virus" was used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"We chose the term for the easy understanding for many Hongkongers," it said. "We want to reiterate that use of the term 'Wuhan virus' had no intention to offend or stigmatize anyone."

This is not the first time local universities have cut ties with their student unions. In February, the Chinese University stopped providing administrative support and renting venues to its student union, accusing its representatives of making false allegations about the university and exploiting the campus for the purpose of political propaganda.

The University of Hong Kong also stopped collecting membership fees on behalf of the student union after condemning it for becoming increasingly politicized in recent years.

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