Hong Kong students have criticised University of Warwick campus security’s decision to take down an image of a pig used in students’ ‘Lennon Wall’, after mainland Chinese students complained it was “racist”.
Hong Kong students are asking how the decision to take down the pig, made by a university body, reflects on how Warwick stands in relation to protests that have been taking place in Hong Kong since June.
The two Hong Kong students told The Boar that they will continue to challenge the decision that they see as a “breach of free speech”.
A video filmed by a Hong Kong student that was present during the takedown of the wall was seen by The Boar.
He narrated: “A group of mainland students called us racist. We have reasoned with campus security, who said that we need to take it down. We have been calmly negotiating, and as you can see, we have not taken any physical action. However, we don’t understand we received complaints.”
Mainland Chinese students present on the scene said: “We will just stand here. We won’t stop you.”
Hong Kong students told security to “tell (their) boss to come in”. Security said they were “just following orders”, and the students refused to move out of the way of a stepladder used by security to remove parts of the pig display.
(Mainland Chinese students) said that the pig pronounced in Mandarin – “zhu na” – is very similar to “China”, and carries “negative connotations”
The student filming continued: “Today Hong Kong students are being oppressed at a UK university. What is going to happen tomorrow? I am a HongKonger, I stand for what I stand, and they that challenge us shall fall. I am not happy and I won’t be, because I’m standing for justice, I’m standing for myself.
“This is video proof of what oppression looks like. A Chinese student accusing another Chinese student that they are racist. A symbol of peace, a symbol of protest being misused.
“We don’t have any rights! Just as how the Hong Kong government is suppressing us! We can’t speak up and we can’t feel!”
The Boar spoke to mainland Chinese students who were at the scene. Two of them, who are postgraduates at Warwick, said that the pig pronounced in Mandarin – “zhu na” – is very similar to “China”, and carries “negative connotations” which has induced “hard feelings” among mainland Chinese students who also felt “disrespected”.
Students from Hong Kong organising the Lennon Wall defended the pig when approached by The Boar, saying that it was a symbol of protest commonly used by Hong Kong protestors especially on the messaging app Telegram as stickers.
The students also expressed their concerns over the University’s treatment of free speech in this incident, suggesting that it was “ridiculous” to call the pig racist, and thus staff were bowing to Chinese restriction of free speech.
Protestors explained the pig with the hardhat is a symbol of Hong Kong protestors. They suggested that Chinese students manipulated the image and campus security “should’ve known better that it wasn’t racist”.
We didn’t expect campus security to come, we expected mainland Chinese students shouting insults at us but we didn’t expect a body from the university, a group that can make a decision, to come in and take it away
– Anonymous Warwick student from Hong Kong
One anonymous Hong Kong student told The Boar: “We didn’t expect campus security to come, we expected mainland Chinese students shouting insults at us but we didn’t expect a body from the university, a group that can make a decision, to come in and take it away.”
They explained that campus security had told them that Chinese students were trying to take the entire wall down, but security asked Hong Kong students to “compromise”.
Another Hong Kong student who wishes to remain anonymous questioned how “we could even be deemed racist if we are Chinese ourselves”, and said security should have “seen the ridiculous nature of this claim and acted from their own judgement”.
Students who erected the Lennon Wall challenged security taking down the pig. They were allegedly to told that they could not appeal the decision, and that “the decision had come from the head of campus security”, although “some campus security staff said they didn’t think the pig was racist themselves”.
When contacted for comment, the University of Warwick said: “The University continues to facilitate peaceful protest and freedom of speech by all students and staff while also being mindful of the concerns of all other members of our community.”