Hong Kong universities should stay alert to foreign infiltration, says Carrie Lam

The universities in Hong Kong were reminded by the city's leader of their duties.
The universities in Hong Kong were reminded by the city's leader of their duties.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Hong Kong institutions, including universities, need to be very sensitive to infiltration by external forces, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday (June 8).

Mrs Lam was responding to a question by China Daily on an international sociological that had been slammed by Hong Kong academics as unethical.

The study that paid 849 students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to participate in the 2017 and 2018 protests and provide information on the rallies.  Each student was paid HK$350 (around S$60 in today’s rates).

The study has been published in the June issue of the American Economic Review, a monthly academic journal.

According to Hong Kong police, the two demonstrations in 2017 and 2018  involved in the study had turnouts of 14,500 and 9,800 at peak, respectively.

On Tuesday, the city’s leader reminded universities in Hong Kong  of their duties to prevent the impact on local students of international academic activities with prejudice and bias.

Speaking to the media before the weekly Executive Council meeting, Mrs Lam said: “These external forces are at work. And how are they acting, penetrating into various institutions in Hong Kong including the universities is something that everyone in position should be very sensitive to.

“As a matter of principle that based on the events that we have seen in the latter half of 2019 until the enactment and implementation of the National Security Law (for Hong Kong), I hope there is now no doubt in the minds of many people that there are external forces quite active in Hong Kong for their ulterior motive.”

Mrs Lam urged the university management, the council chairman and the president to be extremely careful and to make sure that university students will not be easily indoctrinated by those prejudices and bias, let alone take part in activities that will breach the laws of Hong Kong.

Last Friday, Hong Kong legal experts and scholars blasted the academic study led by multinational scholars.

Senior Counsel Ronny Tong told China Daily he found the project academically unethical and morally unacceptable. The practice of paying students to take part in an assembly runs counter to the basic elements of free expression in Hong Kong, he said.

Barrister Lawrence Ma added that the study may have exposed the students to the risk of participating in illegal assemblies and being subject to criminal prosecution.

The practice also constitutes a degree of deception as it creates a false impression to the community and to the world that the participants were expressing their free will, but the involved students were not participating to express their viewpoints will in the two July 1 marches involved, he said.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, in a statement on June 3, said one of the five scholars involved in the study had left the university in September 2019.

The university said the study also failed to pass a review by the university’s Human Research Ethics Committee at the end of 2019 because of its misrepresentation in its application to the committee. The proposal did not reveal that a core of their study design was to induce protest turnout, nor did it say the subjects would be paid on-site at the protests, the university said.

In her interview with China Daily, Mrs Lam  said she welcomes and supports a draft law on countering foreign sanctions submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress – China’s top legislature – on Monday for second reading.

As someone being targeted by US sanctions, Mrs Lam echoed the Chinese government's strong condemnation of these hegemonistic acts.

"Every Chinese who upholds the country's sovereignty and core interests should take the stance of strong indignation," she said.

This year, July 1 marks the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, and the centenary of the Communist Party of China.

Mrs Lam revealed that many celebrations are expected to be held to mark this special occasion in Hong Kong.

She has been invited to attend a seminar on Saturday on the relationship between the Communist Party of China and the “one country, two systems” as well as an exhibition on the achievements of the party over the last century.