Tensions are escalating on university campuses here between Korean students supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and Chinese students studying here who oppose them, citing Beijing's "One China" doctrine.
|Korean students from Korea University argue with Chinese students on the university campus in Seoul, Tuesday, as the latter try to remove banners showing support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. / Korea Times photo by Kim Young-hoon|
On Wednesday, dozens of Korean and Chinese students at Hanyang University in Seoul scuffled over the setting up of a "Lennon wall" and posting of messages supporting the Hong Kong protests by the former.
Fifty Chinese exchange students and 10 Korean students clashed. The exchange students said the Korean students were "interfering with domestic affairs," and the Hong Kong protests were "nothing to do with Koreans." The Koreans refuted this, saying that they had the right to freedom of speech on the issue, according to witnesses.
The conflict continued for about four hours.
Similar cases have occurred at other schools as well, including Seoul National, Yonsei and Korea universities and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
Some Yonsei University students said they put up four banners to show their support for the Hong Kong protesters, with slogans such as "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times," Nov. 4. But all of them were removed within just a few hours.
Their previous banners, set up Oct. 25, were also removed a day later.
While they again set up the banners, one of the students witnessed two students speaking Chinese removing them. The student filmed the scene and submitted the video footage to police, who are considering applying property damage charges.
Amid the escalating conflict, the Chinese Embassy in Korea issued a statement expressing regret over the tension between Koreans and Chinese on the university campuses.
"What is going on in Hong Kong has not been objectively and truthfully known to the people around the world for various reasons. It is regrettable that this has led to conflict between Korean and Chinese students at some universities," the statement, posted on the embassy website Friday, read.
It said it was natural for Chinese students to express their anger and opposition to words and actions that damage China's sovereignty and distort facts. "But at the same time, the Chinese government is continuously asking Chinese people abroad to abide by local laws and rules, express their patriotism reasonably and pay attention to their safety.
"We hope students in both countries study hard and contribute to enhancing Koreans' understanding of China and improving friendship between the two countries."
According to statistics from the Korean Educational Development Institute, there were 69,287 Chinese students at Korean universities and graduate schools as of April.