What happened at 9:25pm, 28 July 2015: dozens of students stormed the conference room at University of Hong Kong (HKU) where a closed-door meeting of the HKU Council was held and arrived at the decision to defer the appointment of a new pro-vice chancellor, after it was deferred last month. From the live news, we could see that as Billy Fung Jing-en, President of HKU’s student union, re-entered the conference room after a bathroom break, the students, previously protesting outside the conference room, also followed him into the room, and that’s how the chaos unfolded. Disruption to the meeting began as the students shouted “Shame on you!” at the council members. Amidst the chaos created by the students, Dr Lo Chung-mau, one of the HKU Council members who supported the deferral, was seen collapsing on the ground, the cause of his collapse is unclear, however. Students were heard calling Dr Lo’s collapse a fake flop, telling him to play football for Manchester United, some even threw in obscenities.
Besieged by the students, Dr Lo and the other council members were told by Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, former President of HKU’s student union, that a path could be opened up for Dr Lo to leave the conference room for medical assistance, if all Council members went back to their seats, and provided no council members made an attempt to ‘escape’ the conference room. What Leung also added was an appeal for the journalists to leave the conference room. In the end, council members Dr Lo and Ayesha Mcpherson were sent to the hospital, but not before one of the ambulances was barricaded by the students, and plastic water bottles hurled at Dr Lo.
While the causes of Dr Lo’s collapse remains unclear, the fact that the students prioritised their appeal (the revisit of the decision to defer appointment of pro-vice chancellor) over the wellbeing of a person goes on to show the younger generations’ fast dwindling respect for other people. And since when has disruptive behavior become the norm, the way to get your message across? It certainly brings back memories of the National Education protest and the Occupy Central sit-in: disrupt orders, not make compromises to seek mutual agreement, when you come across something that displeases you.
If I get to ask the students one question, it would be: Will you happily back down if the HKU Council appoints the pro-vice chancellor right now, except that that person won’t be Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, as has been recommended for the post? Would that be political interference no more? That the students seem hung up about the appointment of Professor Johannes Chan, the rationale largely unknown, does boggle the mind.
When asked about the chaos caused by the students at the council meeting, Billy Fung was quoted as saying, there isn’t anywhere the students can’t go at the university, because the university belongs to the students. What Billy Fung might have thought of as a witty excuse is really a statement that defies common sense. Think about this: Does it mean I can just walk into a random stranger’s home in Hong Kong because Hong Kong belongs to all Hongkongers? The reality that increasingly eludes young people these days is that there is law and order in society. What this means is, just because you are upset or dissatisfied about something doesn’t give you the right to breach law and order with impunity, such as illegally blocking major motorways or breaking into closed-door meetings uninvited. So widely glorified and yet so pathetic is such disruptive and rogue behaviour, with a disregard for other people’s rights and lack of intention to seek common grounds, among young adults these days.