Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) saw its sole student union broken up on Oct. 7, eight months after the college withdrew recognition of the body.
The move marks the latest dissolution of civil societies under the Beijing-imposed national security law. The recent-disbanded groups include the trade union and the group behind the annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil in Hong Kong.
“For 50 years, CUSU [The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Student Union] existed as an independent student organization whose representatives were elected through a democratic process,” the group said in a statement on its Facebook page.
“It is a matter of profound regret that CUSU is now history.”
The university’s management said it would stop collecting fees and providing venues for its student union, and suspend its members’ positions on all student committees. Management demanded the student group to register as an independent society or company through government agencies and assume legal responsibility for itself, according to a statement released on Feb. 25.
However, the union said in a Thursday statement that legal opinion suggested it “does not need” independent registration.
“We are now torn between following the legal advice or complying with the university administration’s demand,” the statement read.
The union quietly held a joint meeting and voted to dissolve on Sept. 10, adding they had accepted “the collective resignation of the student representatives,” according to the statement.
In another Thursday statement, the school said it regrets the decision and “work to transition activities previously managed by the CUSU to the Office of Student Affairs.”
The tensions between the school management and its student union escalated in February. CUHK announced it severed ties with the body, saying the group’s winning platforms may breach the national security laws. In response, twelve leaders stepped down a week later, citing under “political pressure.”
CUHK claimed the newly elected union cabinet, known as Syzygia, made “false allegations” against the college and “exploited the campus” for “political propaganda” in the second statement released in February. In the first statement, the school said it “strongly objects” to Syzygia’s 80-page election manifestos, adding it contains “possibly unlawful remarks.”
In its election manifesto, Syzygia accused the university of “kowtowing to the regime,” adding the security law infringed basic human rights and freedom.
In the city’s other top universities, ties between authorities and student committees have also soared amid Beijing’s pressure.
HKU’s student group criticized plans to implement national security education at the university, saying it was “bending over to the wolves of the tyranny” in an open letter on April 16.
Two days later, People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, lashed out at the HKU’s student body as a “malignant tumor” and that “strong medicine” must be used to remove it.
On April 30, Hong Kong University (HKU), the city’s oldest university, said in a statement that it had cut ties with its student union on national security grounds and “strongly condemns” the body’s “radical acts and remarks.”
The draconian national security law has raised concerns about the curtailing academic and political freedom in the former British colony. The vaguely-worded legislation punishes speech or acts deemed secessionist, subversive, terrorist, or perceived as colluding with foreign countries against the communist regime.
Under the national security law, over 50 independent groups have been dissolved in 2021. More than 100 people have been arrested, leading to more than 60 charges, mostly against democratic politicians, activists, journalists, and students.