'They Are Monitoring Our Thoughts And Behavior, Which is Chilling.'

Amid a crackdown on peaceful dissent and political opposition under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by Beijing, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) recently withdrew recognition for the student union, known as Syzygia, shortly after it elected its new leadership committee. After some consideration, the union disbanded. Former committee member Issac Lam spoke to RFA in a recent interview about his shock at the announcement, given that university leaders and faculty had previously been supportive of the union:

The atmosphere was very harmonious at the time, and the senior management seemed to be looking forward to working with us in the coming year. The dean of students, Raymond Chan, patted all of the Syzygia committee members on the should and congratulated them on their strong counts at the ballot box.  

The whole thing was very silly, especially given that vice chancellor Rocky Tuan had accepting before, and had vowed in a media interview not to give up on young people.

They were saying very different things to us, and to other [people]. They were actually asking other student representatives if they could help to disqualify Syzygia … but to our faces they were just saying in meetings with us that they wanted to minimize any turbulence.

Political tensions are very high on Hong Kong campuses right now. CUHK reported a graduation-day protest to police, and they have been expelling more and more students who took part in civil disobedience. They have also set up networks of surveillance cameras all across campus.

I believe that these closed-circuit televisions are not only being used by CUHK, but may also be being used by organizations off campus. They are monitoring our thoughts and behavior, which is chilling.

All we wanted was to work with management to improve the environment of CUHK. In the end, we became their enemies and victims of a political game. The so-called adult world turned out to be so ugly and sinister.

We didn’t think about it. We just elected our student union leaders, and went online to talk about our ideas. It was peaceful and rational. But we were being followed and secretly photographed. So that’s what this has come to: the use of the machinery of state [against us].

We spent many nights and all night debating [whether to disband]. Whether we could find another way, or take legal action. The decision we made will affect not just Syzygia, but the entire future of the CUHK student union and the entire academic community. We couldn’t take this decision lightly.

In the end, we all felt guilty and ashamed for disbanding. We would just like to say thank you [for all of the public support] and to apologize. [Our hopes and goals] have all come to nothing.

Reported by Cheng Yut Yiu for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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