Hong Kong Campus Rocked by Protest Becomes ‘Prison’ a Year Later

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Hong Kong Campus Rocked by Protest Becomes ‘Prison’ a Year Later” – below is their description.

    One year ago, Hong Kong Polytechnic University was in flames. Police and student protesters faced off at the campus — one of Hong Kong’s best-known — in a chaotic 16-day siege last November that became a symbol of the battle between the city’s China-backed administration and anti-government protesters. Today, what had once been a bustling, freely accessible campus is locked down, its protest movement extinguished in a series of aggressive moves to stifle dissent in the Asian financial hub. On a recent weekday, uniformed security guards stood at entrances blocked by gates. To enter, students, faculty and staff must tap their university ID cards, while visitors are not allowed unless they receive permission in advance. Though many universities in the U.S. and Europe have been locked down because of Covid-19, PolyU’s restricted campus is rare in the city — others including Hong Kong Baptist University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong still allow students and visitors on campus without prior approval. Even so, students at all universities in Hong Kong have had to adjust in the wake of national security legislation imposed in June by Beijing, including a tip line to report suspected violations. The dismissals of professors who supported the pro-democracy movement have added to concerns about a loss of academic freedom in an education system that has long contributed to Hong Kong’s status as a business hub by luring international professors and students while enticing local high achievers to stay home. “On the one hand, professors are more cautious about what they say and cover in class, a situation that has been aggravated by the National Security hotline initiative,” said Peter Baehr, a professor of social theory at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. “This is creating a rat’s nest of informers and some of them, sadly, may be students and colleagues. On the other hand, university administrations are becoming ever more tyrannical.” The main entrance of PolyU on Sept. 26. Once a freely accessible campus, visitors are no longer allowed unless they receive permission in advance.Photographer: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg Baehr and other experts on the city’s university system say they are seeing what they call a replication from the mainland of strict Chinese Communist Party control. Patriotism and fealty to the party are key. “This system rewards loyalty over competence, opportunism over principle,” Baehr said. “Academics are expected to take orders from administrators and lump it. They generally do.” A spokeswoman for PolyU said in an emailed statement that the university restricts access to the campus to maintain normal operations and reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The university also has an obligation to take appropriate action if there’s any improper use of its premises, she added. “The university firmly upholds academic freedom,” the spokeswoman said in the statement. “However, any acts that violate laws and regulations will not be tolerated.” PolyU said it offered almost 2,200 undergraduate seats in the local admission program for the 2020-2021 academic year, and almost 90% accepted the offer and completed the registration. The registration rate is similar to the previous year, PolyU said. Kelvin Cheng, a mechanical engineering student who is the PolyU student union’s external vice president, said the physical landscape of the campus has become “a prison from students’ perspective.” He added: “The school is inherently an open, public space. What they are doing now violates the values a university is supposed to have.” PolyU’s “Democracy Wall” — a notice board managed by the student union where messages were freely posted — has been monitored by university officials since the security law was implemented in June, Cheng said. A year after the protests, he said, “it’s like there is a deep wound, a crack, but the crack could never be erased.” Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2TwO8Gm Bloomberg Quicktake brings you live global news and original shows spanning business, technology, politics and culture. Make sense of the stories changing your business and your world. To watch complete coverage on Bloomberg Quicktake 24/7, visit http://www.bloomberg.com/qt/live, or watch on Apple TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Fire TV and Android TV on the Bloomberg app. Have a story to tell? Fill out this survey for a chance to have it featured on Bloomberg Quicktake: https://cor.us/surveys/27AF30 Connect with us on… YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bloomberg Breaking News on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/BloombergQuickTakeNews Twitter: https://twitter.com/quicktake Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/quicktake Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/quicktake

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