On February 21, 2022, it was reported that Hong Kong police’s national security department had opened an investigation into the student union of the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) for expressive activity during a farewell ceremony that they claimed may have breached the Beijing-imposed National Security Law.
On February 14, the CityU student union held a farewell ceremony before vacating its office at the request of the university.
At the time, the university had reportedly instituted a ban on gatherings due to a steep increase in COVID-19 cases. According to The Standard, security guards warned the students to refrain from gathering.
During the farewell ceremony, students chanted slogans and wrote remarks on the ground of the student union-run convenience store and on post-it notes on the university’s democracy wall. Some of the written statements under investigation, police say, allegedly incite Hong Kong independence.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a national security investigation into a student organization for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Hong Kong is a party. While state and higher education authorities have a right to maintain order and safety on campuses, they should ensure that their responses are not disproportionate and are not intended to restrict or retaliate against nonviolent expressive activity. Such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.