Thu, Feb 19, 2015 - Page 3 News List

‘Commie-loving’ mainlanders become targets at Hong Kong’s top university

Reuters, HONG KONG

A campus election at a top Hong Kong university degenerated into an acrimonious campaign against mainland Chinese candidates, highlighting simmering tensions two months after pro-democracy protests led by local students paralyzed parts of the territory.

Mainland students say they have always felt a distance from their local peers, but recent events in the Chinese-controlled territory have fueled a burgeoning Hong Kong identity among many younger residents, alongside frustration and anger at Beijing.

“To brainwashed Commie-loving Mainlanders, we despise you,” a flyer posted on the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) “Democracy Wall” said, underscoring the sharpening divide.

The flyer has since been removed.

The so-called “Umbrella movement” protests late last year, calling for full democracy in Hong Kong, posed the greatest challenge to China’s authority since the crushing of a pro-democracy movement in Beijing in 1989.

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) People’s Daily said this week that life for mainland students in Hong Kong was “getting tougher,” and the roughly 150,000 young people it estimates live in the territory were “being treated unfairly as collateral targets.”

Divisions at HKU bubbled to the surface when a young woman running for the student union was accused of being a Beijing spy and subjected to online abuse after a campus television report highlighted her Communist Party Youth League membership.

A pro-Beijing newspaper leapt to her defense, warning against what it described as a dangerous “McCarthyite trend” in the former British colony.

Millions of Chinese schoolchildren are members of the party’s Youth League and Young Pioneers.

When another student in the same election confirmed that his grandfather had been a CCP member, bright red fliers merging an image of his face with that of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) were plastered across his campaign posters.

Despite the accompanying warning to students to “Beware of the Communists, be careful when you vote,” his Cabinet, as groups of students running on the same ticket are called, ultimately won.

“At the time of an election, sometimes things get a little bit polarized,” HKU Dean of Student Affairs Albert Chau (周偉立) said. “In the past even in campaigns between two local Cabinets there were remarks made about political affiliation, political association which I don’t think were very healthy.”

Chau said isolated incidents should not seen as a sign of growing tension between mainland Chinese and locals.

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