Students have started a petition
‘Reconsider collaboration with Hong Kong universities’ (UPDATE)
The 72 submitters, six of whom are from Hong Kong, fear for the long-term safety of RUG students and staff. ‘The universities aren’t protecting the safety of local students’, says petition initiator Elyse (24).
‘The RUG shouldn’t just look at its collaboration from an economic and practical point of view, but should also take into account the intrinsic difference in values between itself and the Hong Kong universities.’
They are specifically asking the RUG to reconsider its collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). ‘Neither university issues so much as a statement during the police raids’, says Aaron (25), who also signed the petition.
‘History has shown time and again that in countries where riot police is used, basic human rights such as freedom of speech and the ability to publicly question things are threatened’, he continues. ‘This is directly related to the academic freedom at the universities we’re talking about.’
The riot police’s heavy-handed actions set a dangerous precedent for the universities’ future academic freedom, the students say. ‘The RUG should consider that the way the Hong Kong universities are treating these fundamental human rights is in stark contrast to its own message’, says Elyse.
Failed in its duty
As far as the students are concerned, both Hong Kong universities have failed in their duties to protect their students during the riots in November. ‘The way they’ve handled the situation is unacceptable’, the students write in their petition.
They say the university should have attempted to play a mediating role in the protests and defend academic freedom when it was threatened by the arrival of the police. ‘That is a university’s core function’, says Aaron. ‘If we can’t even speak up against the government, or any other group, at university, where can we go to learn how to think and act critically?’