Campus flag-raising ceremonies may become ‘new flashpoint’

Flag-raising ceremonies on Hong Kong university campuses risk becoming a new flashpoint as the presence of Hong Kong police and security officials attending such ceremonies and reports of students being forced to attend them have caused consternation among students just beginning the new academic year.

The raising of the Hong Kong and Chinese flags on university campuses used to be rare events: most universities had previously only held such ceremonies on special occasions such as 1 July, when Hong Kong was handed back to China after British colonial rule.

But last year Hong Kong’s Education Bureau announced that universities would have to hold formal flag-raising ceremonies “at least once a week” under the new rules which came into effect in January this year.

National security education

The rules bring universities in line with national security education already in place in primary and secondary schools in the city and where flag-raising ceremonies are now commonplace.

Lingnan University, a public liberal arts institution, had already announced in January it had formed Hong Kong’s first university student flag-raising team comprising 34 students “to take up the solemn on-campus national flag-raising duty”.

The team would learn the sprit and etiquette of raising the flag, the university said in a statement in January.

However, the flag-raising ceremony to mark the beginning of the academic year held on 5 September at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), one of the city’s top universities, has raised eyebrows for the size of the event – over 200 were invited – and the people who attended.

They included Hong Kong education officials but also Hong Kong Police Commissioner Raymond Siu and Deputy Police Commissioner Joe Chow, as well as Hong Kong’s Security Secretary Chris Tang.

Mainland Chinese officials were also present, including representatives of Beijing’s liaison office in the city; Deng Jianwei, bureau chief of China’s Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong; and Chinese foreign ministry officials in Hong Kong, according to a CUHK press release.

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