College lecturer held in classroom, harangued over anti-protester comments

Chan Wai-keung, a college professor getting held up by students because of comments he made supporting harsher penalties for those arrested during anti-government protests. Screengrabs via Twitter video.
Chan Wai-keung, a college professor getting held up by students because of comments he made supporting harsher penalties for those arrested during anti-government protests. Screengrabs via Twitter video.

Some slightly unseemly scenes emerged from a Hong Kong classroom yesterday as students shouted down a professor and shone laser pens in his face over comments he made supporting harsher penalties for pro-democracy protesters.

Chan Wai-keung teaches social sciences and humanities at Hong Kong Community College, which is a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and offers associate degrees and diplomas. According to Apple Daily, Chan had recently made comments in the media saying that those found guilty of rioting in the recent anti-government protests should be given harsh punishments.

The interview in question appeared in on.cc on Saturday, with Chan arguing that with the threat of a 10-year sentence for rioting appearing to do little to deter protesters, a one-year sentence for flouting the city’s new mask ban was unlikely to make much of a difference.

He added that the city’s courts were too lenient with their sentencing, saying “police arrest people, the courts release them,” and went on to urge courts to hand down stiffer sentences for rioters and consider the social impact of their crimes.

A second-year student at the college surnamed Tse told Apple Daily that Chan lectures mainly on contemporary China, and that students were unhappy with the comments.

After word of Chan’s comments spread across campus, dozens of students went to his classroom at HKCC’s Yau Me Tei campus — where he was due to teach a from 3pm to 5pm — and staged a sit-in demanding a “dialogue.”

The dialogue, however, turned into more of an unruly shouting match, with Chan telling on.cc that when he entered the classroom, he was confronted by a large number of students demanding an apology, and at one point was shoved by a student.

In an Instagram livestream, Chan can be seen standing at the front of the classroom while students yell taunts like, “Don’t wet yourself,” and dare him to call the police if he wants to get out of the classroom.

Someone also projected the words “reject June 4,” an often-chanted slogan alluding to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, onto the board at the front of the room. Others chanted slogans like, “Reclaim Hong Kong, the revolution of our times,” as people shine laser pointers at Chan’s face.

At one point, students turn laser pointers to Chan’s groin, chanting “Set it on fire,” a reference to an incident in August when a student leader was accused of weapons possession because he had laser pointers in his bag. Police at a subsequent press conference demonstrated that laser beams, if held steady for a lengthy period of time, could burn a small hole in a newspaper.

Ultimately, campus staff — including HKCC’s dean, Dr. Simon Leung — had to intervene to extricate Chan from the classroom, which he finally left at around 7:30pm.

Speaking to on.cc, Chan said he didn’t feel like he was taking part in a “dialogue,” but rather like he was “imprisoned,” likening the students’ behavior to that of China’s red guards during the Cultural Revolution.

According to Apple Daily, Chan did call the police at one point, but the college’s dean prevented officers from entering the campus to escort him out of the classroom.

News of Chan’s ordeal comes as anti-government protesters continue onto their 18th week, with some in the protester camp doing some soul searching after increasingly common incidents of vandalism of mainland-linked companies and physical altercations with critics during demonstrations.

One of the more notable recent incidents happened on Friday, the day the anti-mask law was unveiled, when a mainland office worker was blocked by black-clad protesters, and repeatedly punched after shouting “we are all Chinese.”

Some on Reddit-like forum LIHKG also likened the recent incidents to the terror imposed by “red guards,” with one especially popular post urging against wanton violence saying “constantly stepping up the damage more will only aid our opponents’ propaganda.”

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