Police in Hong Kong raided the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on Friday to collect evidence after more than 100 graduating students participated in a rally in support of the region’s pro-democracy movement.
Hong Kong Free Press reported that the students held the demonstration on Thursday after their graduation ceremony, wearing Guy Fawkes masks and waving flags with slogans such as “Hong Kong, the only way out” and “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”
VIDEO: Dozens of graduating Chinese University of Hong Kong students display slogans that authorities have declared illegal in a rare act of defiance against a sweeping new national security law imposed on the city by Beijing pic.twitter.com/yb9h9YmsrD
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) November 19, 2020
Protesters also sprayed graffiti of the slogans and sang the protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong” before marching peacefully from the local train station to the “Million Boulevard” walkway. The demonstration took place despite the fact that the actual graduation ceremony was held virtually as a safeguard against the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, university authorities called the police and condemned a series of supposed “illegal acts and irresponsible behaviour.” The investigation was soon passed on to the force’s national security department, who launched a raid on the campus around 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
UPDATE: police has entered Chinese University campus to collect evidence, after graduates held a rally yesterday and chanted pro-independence slogans. https://t.co/1pYD841laA
— Alvin Lum (@alvinllum) November 20, 2020
According to local media, around 40 plain-clothed officers arrived on-site to demand CCTV footage from the university’s security office, take photos of the protest route, and visit residential halls to speak to witnesses.
One of these witnesses, a security guard, claimed he had been thrown to the ground during a scuffle with a citizen journalist. Officers left the campus at around 5 p.m.
Such demonstrations are now officially illegal under the region’s China-imposed “national security law,” which effectively outlaws the public expression of any opposition to Beijing or the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The law bans “subversion of state power” and “secession.” Hong Kong officials have stated that saying slogans or waving flags with slogans such as “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” constitute acts of “secession.”
“Police attach great importance to and severely condemn the blatant violation of the National Security Law and criminal damage at the campus,” the government spokesperson said.
Beijing’s Liaison Office accused demonstrators of “tearing society apart” by refusing to give up on their “wicked political motives.”
“We firmly support the special administrative region’s national security bodies to enforce the law resolutely and speedily handle the case in accordance with law,” the statement read.
“After the enactment of the national security law, over a year of disorder and threats to citizens’ safety was just beginning to improve,” it continued. “A small number of them deluded students to provoke trouble with their wicked political motives. They will not win popular support.”
Despite the imposition of the “national security law,” such demonstrations remain a regular occurrence in Hong Kong. Over the past decade, citizens have held thousands of demonstrations demanding the preservation of the city’s democracy and against China’s ever-increasing control over the region.
Interference from China over the region’s affairs represents a violation of the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement signed by Beijing and the United Kingdom in 1997, which intended to preserve Hong Kong’s way of life while officially making it part of the Chinese state.