Class boycott kicks off at Chinese University

Class boycott kicks off at Chinese University

Crowds are gathering for the first day of the week-long class boycott protesting Beijing's ruling on the 2017 chief executive election

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Students show they are taking part in the boycott by wearing ribbons.
Students show they are taking part in the boycott by wearing ribbons.
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP

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Three HKU students make ribbons to hand out at the protest.
Three HKU students make ribbons to hand out at the protest.
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP

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Members of Hong Kong Federation of Students on a class boycott press conference.
Members of Hong Kong Federation of Students on a class boycott press conference.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP

Watch our video interviews from the 9.22 university class boycotts


[UPDATE - 5.01pm, September 22]

Roger Cheng Hon-man says 108 teachers have volunteered to give classes to the students taking part in the boycott, but added that it was difficult to fit them all into the week's schedule.

Classes have been extended as part of a movement called Volunteering Education for Hong Kong, which will conduct classes wherever they are needed. Classes will also be given to secondary school students, if requested

"Many schools have concern groups, and they're discussing the issues and have many questions," said Cheng. "We want their next step of action to be rational and logical. We want them to understand the issue before getting into action."

[UPDATE - 4.31pm, September 22]

Estimates on the numbers attending the boycott vary, but it is believed several thousand are taking part.
Photo: Associated Press

[UPDATE - 4.13pm, September 22]

Teachers also took to the stage to show their support. In a post on the Teachers in Solidarity with Student Strike Facebook page, the group said: "If the boycott continues, we will continue to offer our support. We hope more teachers will join us." More than 100 teachers have already confirmed their support for the strike.

Over 100 teachers have come out in support of the boycott.
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP

[UPDATE - 3.23pm, September 22]

Thousands of students are gathering today at the University Mall of the Chinese University to mark the start of a week-long class boycott.

Reading a "boycott declaration" at the start of the event, Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) Alex Chow Yong-kang said that students have signed petitions and participated in referendums, only to be dismissed by Beijing. He added that moderate protests will no longer bring about change, and that the time had come for students to step up civil disobedience.

He demanded citizen nomination for chief executive candidates, legco reform and an apology from Beijing, adding that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying should resign if these conditions are not met.

Alex Chow, front left, addressing the crowd.
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP

Deputy secretary general of HKFS Lester Shum estimated that over ten thousand people had packed into University Mall for the start of the boycott.

Organised by the HKFS, college students are walking away from classes this week in protest against Beijing's ruling on Hong Kong's chief executive election in 2017. The boycott was described by students as a final warning to Beijing before wider civil disobedience action.

A series of events will be launched over the week at public places including Tamar Park in Admiralty. More than 100 scholars with different academic backgrounds have promised to give outdoor lectures from 10am to 6pm, speaking on topics including civil society, democracy, urban-rural movement and Hong Kong-mainland conflict so students can continue learning while boycotting classes.

A group of students among those arrested following the July 2 sit-in took to the stage. One from HKU said students have nothing to lose from the boycott.
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP

Students have urged Leung Chun-ying and ministers overseeing political reform to address the public during this week's boycott. If students don’t get a satisfactory response from the government, an escalation of the campaign is not ruled out, said the Federation of Students.

Student group Scholarism will organise a one-day class boycott for secondary school students on Friday to support the college class boycott.

Students taking part in the boycott spoke about their frustration at the current political situation and the need for change. And even before 2pm, many were already gathered at CUHK to take part in the boycott and to make their voices heard. 

"We have a responsibility to take care of society. We can speak against this unfair political system," said CUHK Political Reform Concern Group (Medical Faculty) member Chan Kwok-shing, a Year 3 student.
 

LISTEN: Chan Kwok-shing talks about the boycott:

 

"I disagree [with those saying the boycott is useless] because different people have different views. I believe it is useful for Hong Kong in the future."

Meanwhile Bet Cheung Yuen-wah, a Year 1 language and liberal studies student at the Caritas Institute of Higher Education, who also volunteers for the Hong Kong Federation of Students, has pledged to skip classes for the whole week. She believes she can learn things she otherwise wouldn't by attending the public lecutres. 

Bet Cheung wasn't interested in politics until recently.
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP
 
 

LISTEN: Bet Cheung on the boycott (Chinese): 

 

Cheung only began caring about local politics in the last couple of years, when she realised it is something which directly affects her and society as a whole. She says it is time to take responsibility for the future.

Stephanie Chan Yee-man, a Year 1 journalism student, arrived at University Mall early to take part. She plans on boycotting classes all week.

"We want to fight for our future and we want to fight for our democracy," she said.

 

LISTEN: Stephanie Chan talks about democracy and the boycott:

 

She added that her professor gave no specific instructions on whether or not students should take part in the boycott.  As a result, many of her friends are not taking part because they are afraid of making the sacrifice.

Stephanie Chan's professor gave no opinion on whether or not students should join the boycott
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP

A foreign exchange student from the United States, who declined to give her full name, said she was impressed to see the students fighting for democracy.

"I've been talking to a few students and I think it is very interesting. I tend to support anything where people are fighting for what they believe in," she said. 

"I think it's kind of cool to see students standing up for the right vote. Maybe these issues won't impact them for a decade or two, but it's cool to see that they care right now."

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