The student union of the University of Hong Kong is holding a series of events in early February to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Fishball Revolution and introduce students to its history. The events, to be held on campus, include a photography exhibition titled ‘A Documentary from Lunar New Year’ and film screenings of ‘Lost in the Fumes’ featuring jailed activist Edward Leung on February 3, 5 and 8. The university management, however, condemned the activities on the pretext that it may violate the city’s national security law.

The university issued a press release on February 2 (a day before the first event) concerning public safety and violation of the law. The Centre of Development and Resources for Students (CEDARS) also contacted the Students’ Union (SU) and advised to cancel or modify the screenings given the current political climate. The university further declared that they might “obstruct” the screening due to the possible legal risks involved.

In response to the warnings, the Current Affairs Committee (CAC) of the Students’ Union Council called an emergency meeting and later responded on social media stating that the activities will be held as scheduled further condemning the threats to and suppression of freedom of speech.

Over 70 students and the media attended the first screening of ‘Lost in the Fumes’ in SU building on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. (Photo: Josie Chan)

“The school was overriding student autonomy by political considerations and trampling on students’ academic freedom. The purpose of this screening is to let students understand the Fishball Revolution that happened in 2016 objectively and academically,” said Tracy Cheng, SU External Vice President, at the opening on the first day. She also thanked the students’ participation.

The screening started at 6:30 PM and ended at about 8 PM. Over 70 visitors, including students and the media attended it.

“SU got the copyright of the movie in 2017 and organised the same movie screening in 2018,” said Charles Kwok, member of the CAC. He explained that the SU had already discussed and measured the risks, and would proceed with the activities safely. “It is a legal non-public screening. If we back off now, the university management will further intervene in SU’s operations with whatever excuses in future, but we are a society operating independently from the school.”

Co-organised by 90sfoto, the photography exhibition at the university showcases a series of photos from the Fishball Revolution in 2016 in Mong Kok. It calls attention to local history and intends to deepen students’ understanding of recent political issues.

“I think the Fishball Revolution is the continuation of the Umbrella Revolution and paves the way to the Anti-Extradition Bill movement in 2019. It is a brief piece of local history that is easy to slip people’s mind,” said Alice Chan, a fourth-year arts and law double degree local student. “I hope there is a short description with each photo instead of just titles so that everybody could understand it clearly.”

A student visitor at the exhibition on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. (Photo: Josie Chan)

After the first screening, the University again issued a press statement on February 4 stating its disappointment towards SU ignoring the university’s warnings to reconsider the screenings.

As per the schedule, the last film screening will be held on February 8 at 1/F Student’s Union Building from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Directed by alumna Nora Lam, ‘Lost in the Fumes’ documents a jailed independence activist Edward Leung and shows how he ran the election campaign and joined the pro-independence political party ‘Hong Kong Indigenous.’

The photography exhibition will run until 19th February from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM at 1/F of the Students’ Union Building.

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