Protestors marched from Senate House to Wolfson CollegeJoe Cook

Students, alumni and citizens gathered on Saturday to protest Wolfson College’s decision to keep Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam as an Honorary Fellow. Counter-protestors also gathered to campaign in support of the police and against the months of protests which Hong Kong has seen.

Hundreds of campaigners were present, creating two opposing walls of protestors: one consisted of over 170 people protesting Lam’s fellowship, as well as the violent actions of the police in Hong Kong.

Their sea of black clothing and face masks stood opposite a wall of red Hong Kong and Chinese flags carried by a counter-protest of approximately 110 people. The rally began on King’s Parade, with students marching from Senate House to Wolfson College.

Anti-government protests have rocked Hong Kong since June, when the government proposed a bill which would have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances.

The bill has since been formally withdrawn but protestors are continuing to campaign for other demands, including an independent inquiry into the alleged police brutality that has taken place during the protests.

The crowd protesting Carrie Lam’s Fellowship, almost all of whom covered their faces with surgical masks, held flags and banners reading “Free Hong Kong - Revolution Now” and “Shame on Wolfson College”. Another black poster had a photo of Lam, with a bright red caption stating “Blood On Your Hands”.

Several protestors had loudspeakers and led the group with chants such as “stop police violence” and “support democracy”. Some were handing out leaflets to passersby and shouting “Ga yao”, a Cantonese phrase used for encouragement and to boost morale.

Very few anti-Lam protestors agreed to be named. One anonymous anti-police protestor said, “Carrie Lam doesn’t deserve the fellowship from Wolfson College. She is not a good governor, and she’s pointing guns at the people now.”

“My partner is from Hong Kong and she’s very distressed about the terrible things that are going on over there. I think it’s despicable that Carrie Lam has this honour from a prestigious UK university when she’s causing this disruption.”

Jonny Tsang, a Cambridge alumnus, said, “Cambridge is a prestigious name. Wolfson College is a prestigious name. It really matters what titles they hand out to people, so they have to think carefully about what it is they’re lending our university’s weight to.”

“We have been for the last 800 years a place of liberal ideas, and by seeing what’s happening in Hong Kong, and by what [Lam] has ordered the police to do to universities and students of Hong Kong, it’s important that Wolfson asks, ‘Is this somebody that we want to support?’”

An anonymous first-year protesting against the police said, “I hope Wolfson will support democracy and humanity, and abolish Lam’s Honorary Fellowship”, and urged the counter-protestors to “try to understand and have empathy with what’s happening in Hong Kong.”

Several anti-Lam protestors were Taiwanese, with one such protestor stating that “We’re here because we’re in a similar position to Hong Kong with respect to China’s influence.”

The counter-protestors matched the other side’s chants with calls to “Stop violence”, and shouts of “Take off your masks!”. They held banners which read “We deserve peace” and urged protestors to “Stop demonising HK.”

Yun, one of the counter-protestors, said, “We want to show others that we love Hong Kong but we want to stop this kind of violence - we like peace and we want to save Hong Kong.”

Pingyang, another protestor, said, “We hope that the UK will support the Hong Kong police.” When asked what she would say to Wolfson College, she pointed at the anti-Lam protestors and said, “ignore that.”

Alex, an attendee of the march, held up a banner depicting protestors’ violence and said, “We can show our faces but they can’t even take their masks off because they’re afraid.”

“They’re just beating people up for no reason. Even if you look like you’re from Asia and you can’t speak Cantonese, you will get beaten up.”

One particularly loud protestor became tearful as she described her parents’ situation. “My family in Hong Kong are hiding at home every single day. They can’t get out because of the violence. Police supporters are getting beaten on the street.”

When asked about Wolfson controversy, she became frustrated and exclaimed, “Carrie Lam is just the Chief Executive! She’s just trying to keep the city as it is. Who has she actually killed, and where is the police brutality? If protestors weren’t attacking the police, the police wouldn’t attack them.”

Most of the counter-protestors were not Cambridge students - many were older and worked in Cambridge or had commuted from elsewhere. 


Mountain View

“It’s the people of Hong Kong who are leading the struggle, but they deserve our support”

When the anti-Lam protestors started playing ‘Glory to Hong Kong’, a song created by protestors in Hong Kong, both sides stopped chanting as the black-clad protestors sang solemnly.

The anti-Lam protestors led the way from the Senate House to Wolfson, flanked by the counter-protestors with police stationed along the way.

When the crowd reached Wolfson, a student shouted through an open window in support of the movement, “Shame on Wolfson”, while there were “Support Wolfson” and “terrorists” chants from the counter-protestors.

A crowd of Wolfson students watched from behind locked gates and were given leaflets through the bars, as one protestor gave a speech claiming that “Wolfson College has failed to respond to the situation in Hong Kong.”

Saturday’s rally was organised and promoted by Cambridge Stands With Hong Kong, a community of students and citizens in Cambridge who are in solidarity with the protestors.

Their Facebook event promoting the protest stated, “In this rally, we stand together with everyone who lives under a repressive regime, and make their voice being heard. We stand with the value of Freedom and Democracy. Wolfson and Cambridge should stand with the universal values as well.”

Cambridge Stands With Hong Kong told Varsity, “Over the past five months, under [Lam’s] direct orders, the Hong Kong police force has exerted an unwarranted amount of gratuitous violence unbecoming of an institution meant to maintain order. This has included shooting unarmed students at close-range.”

“As the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam had not only failed to condemn these actions, but had actively encouraged such human rights violations - causing some controversy when she had presented awards to some officers for their service.”

“Carrie Lam has shown no regard for human rights, freedom of speech, democratic values, the safety of students and citizens, nor the independence of universities.”

“On a national level, we will continue to raise awareness through the media of the ties between Carrie Lam and Wolfson College, as well as the University of Cambridge, and the role she plays in the injustices that are happening now in Hong Kong.”

“One thing is clear - we will not give up.”

According to the Telegraph three members of the House of Lords have urged the University’s vice-Chancellor, Chancellor and President of Wolfson College to revoke Lam’s title, condemning her “hard line approach”. The College has also received pressure through an open letter sent in June 2019, which was signed by almost 400 students and alumni.

The decision to withdraw Lam’s title lies with the College, who declined to answer Varsity’s questions but replied with a press release from the President, stating that “The Fellows of Wolfson College are of course concerned with the situation faced by all citizens of Hong Kong. The current unrest poses a real threat to the values of respect, trust and mutual understanding which we espouse in College, and to freedom of expression, in which we believe. I have written to Mrs Lam to express this concern.”

“All our students and other members of Wolfson have the right to express their views, and to disagree with the College and with one another. They also have the right to our support should the current situation be causing them concern or indeed be putting them at risk.”

“At this time, the College has not decided to take any action over the Honorary Fellowship conferred on Carrie Lam in May 2017. We will be refraining from further public comment.”

Lam is one of 37 honorary fellows at Wolfson College, who are awarded the title for being “persons of distinction whom the College holds in high standing”.

Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin University removed Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing legislator Junius Ho’s honorary degree last month after pressure from another member of the Lords.

Cambridge Stands With Hong Kong have signed a petition against the police brutality occurring in Hong Kong, joined by over 70 other international universities.