University student leaders speak at a media briefing on Thursday. Photo: RTHK

Hong Kong student leaders have called for a two-week class boycott as they seek to keep protesters on the streets and pressure on the government to respond to the five key demands after three months of protests over controversial changes to the extradition law.

The announcement on Thursday comes about two weeks before classes start at universities, and flies in the face of comments by the city’s education chief, who said two days ago the bureau strongly opposed such a move.

Representatives from eight University Grants Committee-funded universities plus two private universities – Hong Kong Shue Yan and Hang Seng – jointly said they would hold an outdoor assembly at the University Mall in the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Shatin, which has a history of student activists holding civil disobedience events, at 3:30pm on September 2, the city’s public broadcaster RTHK reported.

Meanwhile, a series of lectures are planned at different campuses over the next two weeks during the boycott, according to Davin Wong, the acting president of Hong Kong University Students’ Union.

On the planned last day of the boycott on Friday September 13, a public lecture on civil society will be organised at Chater Garden in Central. Student leaders said if they did not receive positive responses from the government by 8pm on that date, they would escalate their action, which could include an indefinite boycott of classes.

The spokesperson for the University of Hong Kong said in response that it would closely monitor the situation to ensure that the university can continue with its normal teaching and learning activities.

It acknowledged that students have freedom of expression, but said students participating in boycotts should be aware of the possible impact on the progress of their learning, and that others who want to attend classes must also be respected.

Previously several local universities – the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Science and Technology, the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong, the Education University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University – said they would closely monitor the situation but could continue with normal teaching and learning activities.

Two days ago, the Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung responded to talk about students boycotting classes, saying the bureau strong opposed class boycott in secondary or tertiary institutions.

Schools should not be used to express political aspirations as they not only affect normal school operations but also unfairly drag underaged students into political turbulence at the expense of their learning opportunities, Yeung said.

According to the bureau’s latest documents, teachers in Hong Kong should be permitted to reply to questions about the protests by saying “I don’t know” or “I myself have no idea either” to evade students’ inquisitiveness about the recent events.

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