Last Thursday (25 February), the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) issued a statement to announce a range of measures and restrictions that limit the elected CUHK Student Union (CUSU)’s operation, citing the election platform of the CUSU’s Executive Committee does not represent the University’s position and the CUSU Executive Committee failed to clarify the potentially unlawful statements and false allegations. Civil Rights Observer is concerned about CUHK’s actions, and is of the view that such measures severely violate CUHK students’ rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression.
Student activities on university campuses, including participation in student union and expression of one’s views without being subjected to discrimination and suppression, are part of the academic freedom, freedom of association and freedom of expression protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. According to international human rights standards, no speech should be subject to restrictions or punitive actions unless it incites violence.
The United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has expressed concerns in the past and categorically pointed out that ‘staff and students in higher education are especially vulnerable to political and other pressures which undermine academic freedom’ (Note).
Human rights, democracy and freedom have always been core values of universities. CUHK’s proactive interference of an elected student organisation through administrative measures grossly despises democratic processes on campus. This is deeply regrettable and raises questions on the values university represent.
Note: Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 13, para 38 https://undocs.org/E/C.12/1999/10