SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: August 04, 2021

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):University of Hong Kong

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | Hong Kong 

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 4, 2021, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) governing council banned from campus leaders of the University of Hong Kong Student Union (HKUSU) who had attended a July 7 union meeting.

On July 13, HKU announced it would no longer recognize HKUSU as an independent registered association on campus after the union passed a July 7 resolution expressing “deep sadness” over the death of Leung Kin-fai, a Hong Kong resident who attacked a police officer and then killed himself. On July 16, Hong Kong national security police commenced a criminal investigation of HKUSU for breaching Article 27 of the National Security Law, which criminalizes “advocat[ing] terrorism or incit[ing] the commission of a terrorist activity,” (see report).

On August 4, the HKU council met with a panel appointed to report and issue recommendations on the impact of HKUSU actions on the university. The council announced that all students who had attended the July 7 meeting of the HKUSU would be denied access to campus and university facilities and services. The council stated that allowing HKUSU members under investigation by law enforcement to remain on campus would “pose serious legal and reputational risks to the University.”

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the banning of student union members from campus, apparently intended to restrict or retaliate against the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association. University authorities must refrain from retaliating against the exercise of these rights so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, punishment aimed at restricting or retaliating against free expression and association on campus undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.