On October 15, 2019, University of Malaya (UM) administrators filed a complaint with local police against a student in apparent retaliation for his protest against the university’s vice chancellor during its convocation ceremony.
Wong Yan Ke is a civil engineering student at UM. At the convocation ceremony, as he walked on stage to receive his diploma, Wong carried a poster demanding the resignation of vice chancellor Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim Hashim. Wong’s protest stemmed from a speech the vice chancellor gave at the Malay Dignity Congress, which Wong argued was racially charged.
In a statement issued that day, UM condemned Wong’s protest saying “it tarnished the good name of UM, the graduates and the entire community.” UM officials filed a complaint to police against Wong, prompting a police investigation into Wong’s protest under Section 504 of the Penal Code, “intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace.” Violation of Section 504 can result in two years’ jail, a fine, or both.
UM will, however, permit Wong to collect his degree and transcript, despite a petition calling on the university to revoke the degree.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of a student in retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression — conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Malaysia is a party. State and university authorities have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of freedom of expression, as well as due process and fair trial.