A University of Guelph campus group recently released a statement calling for the Chinese flag to “fly high” over the university after students clashed over the Hong Kong protests.
On Sunday, pro-China supporters confronted pro-democracy students over a cannon which had been painted with the words “Stand with Hong Kong. Don’t take democracy for granted.”
According to university tradition, the “Old Jeremiah” cannon is frequently painted by students. In response to the message, those siding with the Chinese government repainted the cannon red and yellow, to match the colours of the flag of China.
The University of Guelph Chinese Students and Scholars Association (UGCSSA) posted a statement in a WeChat group condemning the protests as violent “separatism.”
“We will use our power to peacefully protest against this anti-China behavior. Let the Five-Star-Red-Flag (Chinese national flag) fly high over the Guelph campus,” read the statement.
According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the associations are known to “receive guidance” from and are “coordinated” by the Communist Party of China (CCP).
“Despite the useful social services CSSAs [Chinese Students and Scholars Associations] provide for their members, they receive guidance from the CCP through Chinese embassies and consulates,” wrote the report.
“Journalists and activists have also shown CSSAs to routinely coordinate with the Chinese government and to have been involved in the suppression of free speech and the harassment, intimidation, and surveillance of Chinese student activists.”
One video of the clash shows Chinese students shouting at pro-democracy demonstrators.
“Stand up for what’s right. Stand up for the Muslims in China, that’s what’s right,” says one pro-Hong Kong student.
“That’s not right!” replied one student on the pro-China side.
According to student Daniel Ginovker, who was representing the Hong Kong democracy protestors, pro-democracy students fear that their identities will be shared with the Chinese government if they support the protests.
“If Guelph students are doxxed [have their personal information released], their family ties in China can suffer. And that’s one of the goals of the Chinese students with their cameras around campus yesterday,” said Ginovker
The university claimed that they are aware of the incident and spokesperson Lori Bona Hunt stated that the university stands behind the right of students to express their opinion.
“No community, including a university community, is going to have a unanimous opinion on this topic or any issue. What is important is ensuring that U of G continues to be a place that values differing viewpoints, champions free speech, and promotes inquiry,” said Hunt.