On November 30, 2022, Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) temporarily suspended the student-run Communications Society after the group published a social media post marking the anniversary of student protests at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in 2019.
It was reported that HKBU received complaints and criticism from pro-Beijing media outlets and other outside sources over the Communications Society’s November 18 social media post about “The Third Anniversary of the Siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.” The post reportedly referred to the November 2019 police siege of the PolyU campus amid weeks of student protests over a controversial extradition bill. The post’s text reportedly included figures tallying the number of students arrested and charged and the number of tear gas canisters deployed. The post also included an illustration of the PolyU campus with smoke in the background and what appears to be a protester dressed in black, wearing a “Guy Fawkes” mask (worn by many during the 2019 protest movement), and seated in front of graffiti that ostensibly references a slogan—“I am happy to fight together with you”—that can be found in photos and graphics circulated over social media after the protests.
The university issued the student group a three-month suspension (enforced until February 28, 2023) in response to the post, which they described as “inappropriate.” The Standard reported HKBU’s president saying that the incident referenced in the post “involved violence and illegal behavior, with some participants being convicted, and that the post was misleading.” The suspension prohibits the group from using any on-campus facilities, accessing the society’s email address, and associating themselves with HKBU.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a university arbitrarily sanctioning a student organization for nonviolent expressive activity. Disciplinary actions aimed at restricting such expression undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.