Polytechnic University trio accused of assaulting staff members face disciplinary hearing over ‘democracy wall’ clash

Polytechnic University trio accused of assaulting staff members face disciplinary hearing over ‘democracy wall’ clash

Ten students had entered management office during row over bulletin board. Investigation triggered after complaint from facilities manager, and they have until December 6 to respond

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Hong Kong Polytechnic University Students' Union president Lam Wing-hang and fellow student Yuen Pak-leung launched a hunger strike to protest against school management taking control of a bulletin board where pro-independence messages were posted.
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP

At least three student leaders at Polytechnic University are under disciplinary investigation for entering the management offices last month during a row over the control of a bulletin board where pro-independence messages had been posted.

The university’s student discipline committee sent a letter to Owen Li, Lam Wing-hang and Hazel Cheng Yuet-ting, on Thursday, said the investigation was prompted by a complaint from the facilities management office.

The trio were among a group of about 10 students who entered management offices and stopped two staff from leaving on October 4. The group demanded an explanation as to why the university had covered half of the “democracy wall” – a bulletin board for students to express their opinions – with large sheets of red paper after pro-independence messages appeared on it.

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The dispute was resolved three days later after Lam, and two other students, ended a 44-hour hunger strike, and the university agreed to continue to allow the student union to manage the wall.

Li is the student representative in PolyU’s governing council, while Lam and Cheng are the student union’s president and external vice-president.

Torn red sheets of paper hang off a bulletin board at Polytechnic University.
Photo: Alvin Lum/SCMP

The letter said the trio’s behaviour might amount to “misconduct”, citing articles they might have breached including, “defamation of, or assault on, or battery against, any staff member”, “refusal to comply with orders” and, “any conduct detrimental to the reputation and well being of the university”.

The students have until December 6 to reply, otherwise the committee may take further action solely on the basis of information provided by the complaining facilities manager Frankie Yee, which includes video footage of the clash.

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In his complaint, Yee said the students yelled at university officials with a loudspeaker, caused disturbances, ignored his order, and verbally insulted both him and other officials.

He said the two officials being stopped during the protest, vice-president Geoffrey Shen Qiping, and the dean of students, Esmond Mok Chi-ming were knocked down during the confrontation.

“Professor Shen was tripped and fell down, and Professor Mok was knocked by someone on his left leg. One of the security guards was also knocked down,” Yee wrote.

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Li told the Post he was not surprised by the university’s move.

“Earlier this month a university staff member told me that a discipline investigation might be on its way,” Li said. “But I didn’t expect the facilities manager to take the initiative.”

Li said Yee’s complaint omitted the causes and consequences of the clash, which they would provide to the discipline committee in their written reply.

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“We might seek to postpone the deadline for a response,” Li said.

In a separate development on Thursday, a small group of Lingnan University graduates protested against the controversial proposal to reclaim 1,700 hectares of land near Lantau Island, and the prosecution of the nine leaders of the 2014 Occupy protests, at a graduation ceremony being attended by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

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The protests happened when students who had taken a Master’s in cultural studies were called on stage.

“The nine activists are innocent. We are against reclamation off Lantau,” a female student chanted, before slapping a print of Lam’s face in front of the chief executive.

Another student formed a cross with his arms in front of Lam, who serves as the chancellor of all the eight public universities, before turning and bowing to the audience. Lam did not respond to the outburst.

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