A ‘Lennon Wall’ set up in the University of Auckland’s city campus has been torn down, not long after Auckland’s China Consulate appeared to reproach the University of Auckland for its actions.
The ‘Lennon Wall’ – which allowed students to post messages of support for the Hong Kong protests – was erected by the We Are Hong Kongers group a few weeks ago. It had been almost completely covered with post-it notes when the posts were torn down.
While it is yet to be confirmed why the walls were torn down, it is likely that it is a part of ongoing tensions between anti-Hong Kong protest and pro-Hong Kong protest students at the University of Auckland. Students on either side of the debate have repeatedly clashed over the issue. Last week, footage of We Are Hong Kongers and anti-protest students arguing over the Lennon Wall was circulated online. More recently, a demonstration on university grounds in favour of the protests was interrupted by an anti-protest man carrying a sign which accused the assembled demonstrators of being a “mob”.
The debate isn’t limited only to the university’s campus. Following a confrontation between anti- and pro-protest students on university grounds, Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon sent all University of Auckland students an email which reminded them of their right to speak their mind on campus. Shortly after the email was circulated, a spokesperson for the China Consulate in Auckland published a press release which appeared to criticise the university’s response. The press release said the consulate did not believe it was appropriate for organisations to promote the Hong Kong protests “under the pretext of so-called academic freedom and freedom of expression”. The release also claimed that certain organisations had engaged in “smearing attacks on the Chinese government and the Hong Kong SAR government” by failing to fight against the wide-spread “bias” and “anti-China sentiment” spreading throughout New Zealand. It is unclear whether the message was meant to refer to the University of Auckland, which has repeatedly stated students will be allowed to express their views – whether they be pro- or anti- protest – so long as no physical harm is done, or whether the message was intended for New Zealand media organisations (many of whom the Consulate has also reproached).
According to the University of Auckland, a witness saw three men tear down the posts before running away. Although security arrived not long after the posts were torn down, they were unable to find the perpetrators. A spokesperson for the university says they will be speaking to members of the We Are Hong Kongers group to determine whether they want to continue using the university space to host the Lennon Wall. If they do, new arrangements will be made to ensure it isn’t vandalised again.