- University of Hong Kong management and president Zhang Xiang ‘issued ultimatum’
- Petitioners warn of a possible escalation of campaign if their four demands are not fulfilled
More than 2,600 students, alumni and staff have signed a petition demanding that University of Hong Kong chief Zhang Xiang "condemn police brutality" and hold a dialogue with those at the institution.
They urged Zhang to follow the lead of Chinese University vice-chancellor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi, who, under intense student pressure, last week agreed to condemn police for "any proven case" of brutality, the first such move by the head of a tertiary institution over the anti-government protests that have rocked Hong Kong for more than four months.
The petition came after the chairmen of the governing councils of the city's eight publicly funded universities " including HKU " issued a joint statement on Sunday, saying the institutions were "not battlegrounds for the resolution of political issues and should not be drawn into supporting any particular political position".
They urged students and staff to be responsible for their own actions.
The chairmen, who are not teaching staff, are all appointed by the government.
On Tuesday, a group of about 100 students and alumni, many wearing masks and some clad in black, gathered to hand the petition letter to HKU vice-president Ian Holliday as Zhang was out of town.
"This is an ultimatum for the university management and president Zhang Xiang," said Year One student "Blue", who initiated the petition. "If the university attempts to evade our demands with a play of words, more discontented students, alumni and staff will stand up and fight."
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The petition listed four demands: that Zhang issue a statement condemning "police brutality"; outline concrete plans to provide legal and financial help for arrested students; hold a forum to address students' concerns; and pledge not to permit searches by the force on campus.
The petitioners asked Zhang to respond by next Monday, warning of a possible escalation of their campaign if the demands were not fulfilled by then.
In a first for university heads, Tuan issued an open letter last Friday saying he would condemn "any proven case of improper use of force or violations of human rights by certain police officers" after he was repeatedly pressed and surrounded by students during an open, emotionally charged dialogue that took place a week earlier.
A teacher surnamed So, who graduated from HKU in 1988, said she hoped Zhang could follow in the footsteps of Tuan and "be courageous to express his stance".
A university spokeswoman said HKU would "study the petition carefully". She declined to disclose the number of students arrested, citing the concerns of those who did not want to disclose their identity.
Zhang previously met students in July when he was grilled for his statement condemning protesters' "destructive acts" at the Legislative Council complex on July 1. Zhang had said he was against all kinds of violence, including excessive use of force by police.
Separately, at least four secondary school pupils were arrested on Monday night in Tsuen Wan during protests.
Shek Lei Catholic Secondary School in Kwai Chung confirmed on Tuesday that a Form Six pupil was arrested. Vice principal Sham Po-leung said school representatives were rejected by police to visit the boy, adding he was later admitted to hospital with minor injuries.
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The boy would not be expelled or punished, Sham said, adding that from what he knew the student was only "passing by Tsuen Wan MTR station" to find his friends when he was arrested.
Yan Chai Hospital Lim Por Yen Secondary School in Tsuen Wan also confirmed three pupils were arrested. It said management had provided help and maintained contact with their parents, adding that it "would not casually expel any student" as the school was a place to teach them and guide them on the right path. More than 400 students signed a petition letter to show support to the trio.
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