*DISCLAIMER: this article does NOT endorse the student protest that have been led violently. It serves to endorse students exercising their freedom of speech, standing up for their democratic rights. This article aims to bring attention to Hong Kong, and to speak out against the bullying and threats students have received for sharing their opinions.
Democracy, freedom of the press, and the right to criticise one’s government are three unquestionable rights most students at St Andrews would agree with. However, many students are unaware/ disenchanted from what is currently taking place at Universities in Hong Kong. With Hong Kong being represented in the St Andrews student body as the 5th largest international group, this issue is not one to be pushed to the side.
What’s Going On?
A critical issue at St Andrews is many students do not understand the severity of the protests, what the protests are, or what is really going on. To summarise, the protests started in June and were targeted at rejecting the extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong citizens to be tried in mainland China. This bill caught fire, sparking into different issues of democratic rights, preserving the autonomy of Hong Kong, and a demonstrated act of opposition against the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Students have used the momentum from the extradition bill this summer (which was later dismissed) to lead protests on the basis of human rights, freedom of speech, and explicit autonomy from mainland China. Student protests historically have been respected, effective, and forceful. However, students in Hong Kong are being gassed, beaten, and killed for standing up for what they believe in. While this violence is taking place abroad—St Andrews students are being directly affected. Many students from St Andrews studying abroad in Hong Kong feel unsafe. Even here in St Andrews, Hong Kong students are being cyber bullied and pressured to keep quiet about the protests.
While St Andrews has stayed discreet, trying to remain neutral throughout these protests. Oxford Student Union on November 13th released a statement issuing support for Hong Kong students. Cambridge also posted a statement on November 15th. Hopefully St Andrews will follow in step, aligning itself with the universities it considers its competitors and not be left in the dust, failing to stand up for international students.
St Andrews Stands With Hong Kong
Three St Andrews Students, Jack Nevin, Christy Chau, and Markus Lee have started a group called St Andrews Stands With Hong Kong. Chau and Lee are both from Hong Kong, making this movement a personal one. Although Nevin is American, he feels strongly about the protests in Hong Kong stating, “ I have never been to Hong Kong have no connection to Hong Kong but I care about democratic rights and personal freedoms. We need to let students here and abroad know that we support them and their right to democratic expression.”
The three have formulated a petition to try and push the school to take action and issue a statement supporting the Hong Kong students. The students have been met with a plethora of enthusiasm from the St Andrews student body, getting 100 likes on their Facebook page in only 4 hours. So far, 45 students have signed the petition, with more trickling in.
The petition is motioning for:
- The Association will publish a public statement condemning police brutality and supporting Hong Kong people’s right to express their opinions freely.
- The Association will publish a public statement condemning any online harassment on students who support the Hong Kong protests.
- The Association will work with Student Services and Academic Staff to ensure sufficient support is available for students with connections to Hong Kong and students who were harassed for their public opinions supporting Hong Kong protests.
- The Association will help circulate the petition to urge the university to release a public statement condemning police brutality in Hong Kong and supporting students with connections to Hong Kong.
How Can You Help?
- Sign the petition, showing your support for the students in Hong Kong and condemning police brutality.
- Researching the protests and staying up-to-date with recent developments.
- Speaking to St Andrews students and faculty from Hong Kong, getting a more complete view of what is really going on.
As Nevin states, “I really hope the St Andrews Student Association will join the other student unions in the UK and condemn the police brutality in Hong Kong. It is important St Andrews help protect students abroad in Hong Kong and Hong Kong students here in St Andrews feel safe and defended. People should not be gassed on their way to school or chased off of parking garages. We take our rights for granted and we should do what we can to help those that do not have these privileges.”