Some of Britain’s top universities are failing to protect the freedom to speak out against Beijing’s repression of Hong Kong due to the growing influence of mainland Chinese students and the institutes’ dependence on funds from China, Hong Kong students said.
Two Hong Kong students recently recalled how they had been bullied by an overwhelming number of mainland students during their campaigns to support the 2019 protests in Hong Kong. Their events, held in top universities in London where they were studying, were halted by school officials as a result.
One student, who gave her name as Jamie, held an exhibition in November 2019 to show videos and material relating to the anti-extradition bill protests and police crackdowns on demonstrators. Some mainland students arrived in the venue soon after it was open, warning the organizers that members of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association in the United Kingdom, the largest Chinese student group in Britain supported by the Chinese Embassy, would be coming, Jamie told Apple Daily.
Dozens of mainland students then arrived, with some pointing their fingers at the Hong Kong students and accusing them of being separatists and of releasing fake news. Some used cameras to take close-up shots of the Hong Kong students while others waved Chinese flags and played video clips on their tablets of Hong Kong police taking down protesters, Jamie said.
They sought help from campus security guards, who then told her to cancel the exhibition because too many people had gathered, Jamie recalled. “We were merely exercising our rights to express our views and to promote exchange. Why did they ask us, rather than the harassers, to leave?”
Another student, Kitty, had a similar experience when staging a Stand with Hong Kong demonstration in October 2019 at the Russell Group university in London where she was studying.
Close to 100 mainland students overwhelmed the event and shouted at about a dozen Hong Kong students at the scene, labeling them “cockroaches” and “traitors.” One aggressive mainland student snatched a leaflet from a Hong Kong student and threw it on the floor, Kitty recalled.
The Hong Kong student’s personal details were later published on mainland Chinese social media platforms, where she was labeled a cockroach, she said.
Kitty repeatedly wrote to university staffers to seek assistance, but no one responded to her requests. She then visited a more senior instructor in person. That instructor admitted that he had no solution in mind to deal with similar problems caused by mainland students, Kitty said.
A group of Hong Kong students in Britain, Power to Hongkongers, is compiling a report to be submitted to the U.K. government on cases involving mainland students bullying others in protests. The group is asking victims to provide details.
Last year, the Conservative Party-funded think tank Onward said that British universities had overly relied on tuition fees from mainland Chinese students. There was also sufficient evidence to suggest that the Chinese Communist Party and its affiliates were undermining Britain’s academic freedom and research.
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