Eric Cheung quits HKU Council after student ban

Law lecturer Eric Cheung said on Thursday he had resigned as a member of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council, a day after the body banned from campus all students who attended a recent controversial students’ union meeting.

The council said on Wednesday that students who attended a meeting on July 7 would be barred from its premises, services and facilities.

It said there were serious legal and reputational risks to the university, after the union passed a motion saying it “appreciated the sacrifice” of a man who stabbed himself shortly after knifing a police officer.

But speaking on a radio show, Cheung said he couldn’t see what these legal risks would be, especially being as the university had already distanced itself from the students – none of whom have been arrested let alone charged with an offence.

“They haven’t been prosecuted, so under our system there should be a presumption of innocence… In the past, even if someone on campus is involved in crime, it’s just a personal matter. I can’t see what serious legal risk there would be for the school,” he said.

The legal scholar, who didn’t attend the meeting and didn’t see the discussion papers, said he only learnt about the news from media reports.

He expressed sadness that the students were “stripped of their rights to be students”.

“Indeed, the students had erred, but they have quickly made an apology. I feel very sad when a university doesn’t nurture students and help them correct their mistakes, but instead forwarded the issue to the university council for some reason and made this decision,” Cheung said.

The scholar also noted the decision has ignored established disciplinary procedures where the students can argue their case.

He said the university has the contractual obligation to provide basic services to let the students study and use related facilities, so long as they are still their students.

On July 16, more than a dozen national security police officers raided the students’ union office, three days after Chief Executive Carrie Lam called for action against student leaders at the institution.