CUHK Graduation rites resume after demonstration last Thursday

Graduation rites at the Chinese University of Hong Kong resumed as usual following the peaceful student protest on Thursday. Remnants of previous student-led protests remain on campus walls and sculptures, making a heavy appearance in graduation photos.

The months-long protests have seen remarkable student involvement ranging from secondary school and university students. Approximately 30 CUHK students had been arrested since the inception of the movement in the beginning of June, a testament to the university’s political activism.

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A group of graduates posing behind a large “CUHK stands for Hong Kong” banner at their feet.

Photographer: Teele Rebane

The Faculty of Education and Business celebrated their graduation on Saturday, marking the end of graduation ceremonies for CUHK this year. Many students lined up to take their graduation photos in front of monuments decorated with pro-democratic leaflets and posters. While celebrating the end of higher education, the students show overwhelming support for their fellow students that have been arrested in the movement.

“The large black banner says: CUHK STANDS WITH HONG KONG,” says graduate student Jason Liu, “we are trying to show the world, to show Hong Kong citizens that we are part of this too.” He adds that frontline protesters are doing what they can, and the students themselves are protesting in the ways that they know how to.

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A graduate carries a Pepe the frog toy. Pepe is one of the symbols of the protest movement.

Photographer: Teele Rebane

Some students carried plush toys of Pepe the frog, a symbol reinvented in Hong Kong to embody pro-democratic sentiments. Young participants of the protests customize Pepe toys with hard yellow hats and gas masks to carry with them in pro-democracy rallies. The character has grown in popularity amongst the youth as shown by graffiti, stickers, and posters featuring Pepe on “Lennon Walls” around the city.

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Two graduates with a protest slogan in the background.

Photographer: Teele Rebane

Another popular graduation backdrop featured a banner with the slogan “No freedom, rather die”. Graduate student Mimi says, “Hong Kong is always fighting for freedom. Since a long time ago we have been fighting for freedom. This is what that means, it is just to show how stubborn we are”.

Last Thursday’s protest at CUHK is one example of the many university student-led demonstrations that occurred to ring support for arrested students. The graduates of CUHK remain full of fighting spirit, prioritizing the importance of non-violence and non-hostile attitudes.

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Flowers are left in the memory of Alex Chow, who died recently under many questions.

Photographer: Teele Rebane

When asked about the peaceful student demonstrations on Thursday, graduate student Leo Cheung says that, “The students were very peaceful, the demonstration only lasted for a short period of time and did not disturb the whole ceremony.” He stresses the importance of non-violence being practiced by the students, “After they have expressed their views and they stop and let the ceremony continue, I think that is acceptable.”

During this ceremony, a large majority of students turned their backs towards the stage and chanted protest slogans as the Chinese national anthem played through speakers. Many students wore the symbolic Guy Fawkes mask along with the standard black cough mask in response to the ‘anti-mask’ ban.

Approximately 1,000 students marched prior to the graduation ceremony on Thursday and continued to protest peacefully long after school officials had left the premises.

A man claiming to be a Chinese mainland student of the university was reported to be waving a small knife and singing the Chinese national anthem at the peaceful demonstrators.

Graduate student Mimi reiterates the importance of non-violence in student-led protests, she notes that the self-claimed mainland man at the protest on Thursday was under no threat. “We support the protests, of course! There was a guy who used the knife and pointed at the protests, but he is wrong. We did not endanger him, we were only shouting slogans and saying Hong Kong anthems.”

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A group of graduates poses with a “Fight for Hong Kong, Revolution Now” poster.

Photographer: Teele Rebane

Student protests during graduation ceremonies have also occurred in HKUST, resulting in the cancellation of classes and university facilities for an unspecified duration of time.

Protests in and around higher education facilities have escalated dramatically in response to the death of HKUST student protestor, Alex Chow Tzs-Lok. A statement issued by HKUST President Wei Shyy on Friday demands ‘a thorough and independent investigation into the death of our student.’ In order to initiate the investigation into Tzs-Lok’s death, he announced that ‘the university has established a portal which will soon be launched for all community members to submit evidences related to the case.’

Meanwhile, Tear gas has been fired on PolyU and HKU campuses this morning, disabling students from going to and from their respective campuses.

Official school statements announced the cancellation of all events and classes, warning students and staff members to take care and await further notifications regarding university activities.

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