British Columbia·Video

New 'Lennon Wall' goes up at SFU as tensions run high over Hong Kong protests

The Simon Fraser Student Society voted to put up a wall where students can leave messages of support for protesters fighting an extradition bill in Hong Kong after a temporary message board at the university's Burnaby campus was vandalized.

Student society votes to put up wall after temporary message board vandalized

A student passes a ‘Lennon wall’ with posters supporting Hong Kong protesters on Wednesday at the SFU campus in Burnaby. The ad-hoc board was repeatedly vandalized. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Simon Fraser Student Society has voted to put a mobile "Lennon Wall" on campus after a similar fixture with messages supporting Hong Kong protesters was vandalized. 

Lennon Walls — which first appeared in Prague in 1980 as a tribute to John Lennon — have sprung up in Hong Kong and elsewhere over the past month; people have been posting notes of encouragement and other messages to support protesters fighting a suspended extradition bill that would ease the transfer of fugitives to mainland China.

The movement appears to have spread to SFU's Burnaby campus. On July 22, posters and sticky notes expressing solidarity with Hong Kong protesters started showing up on a bulletin board outside the W.A.C. Bennett Library.

But after students alleged that the notes were torn down, the Simon Fraser Student Society voted late Thursday to erect a mobile Lennon Wall outside its office, where the wall can be monitored.

A police officer points a gun toward anti-extradition bill protesters who surrounded a police station in Hong Kong where detained protesters are being held. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

In its resolution, the society says it "stands firmly in support of the right of all Simon Fraser University students to peacefully, respectfully and freely express their views regarding the ongoing political situation in Hong Kong."

The society also says it "condemns any attempt to censor or dissuade through threats, harassment or bullying such expression."

A YouTube video surfaced recently showing a young man in a plaid shirt pulling messages off the bulletin wall outside the Bennett Library at SFU and stuffing them into a garbage bag.

"We haven't really done anything, we're just voicing our opinions," says a digitally-altered voice in Mandarin that appears to belong to the person shooting the video. "We really don't understand why you're doing this."

Watch: A young man allegedly pulls down messages of support for Hong Kong protesters.

Simon Fraser University spokeswoman Angela Wilson said the school became aware of the video late Thursday, and campus public safety is investigating.

Prior to the decision to put up a mobile Lennon Wall, Simon Fraser Student Society executive director Sylvia Ceacero said safety was paramount, given recent altercations between pro-Hong Kong and pro-China students at the University of Queensland in Australia and the University of Auckland in New Zealand. 

"We have seen what's been going on in campuses around the world, and we want to make sure we give ourselves the most assurances that our board of directors, our staff and all the students are protected and safe in their expression," Ceacero said. 

Taylor Cheng, a third-year political science student who had contributed to the original Lennon Wall at SFU, applauds the student society's decision. Cheng also urges fellow students to be respectful. 

"As Hong Kongers, we're just trying to avoid all conflict and keep this as peaceful as possible," she said. "We are asking for others to respect the wall and not to rip it, and we will give them the same respect that we expect back."

Messages that were posted on the original message board were repeatedly ripped down. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Miu Chung Yan, a University of British Columbia social work professor who studies the Chinese diaspora, says tensions in Hong Kong are being felt in Vancouver, where pro-Hong Kong sentiments may be perceived by some as a stab at the Chinese government.

"I think that creates this kind of misunderstanding, and some of the people from mainland China — particularly those with a strong sense of nationalism — will see that this is another round of Hong Kong's independence movement," he said. "And that's why, from their perspective, this is not acceptable."

Yan says students should be able to express different opinions on campus, as long as universities set clear rules. 

"Within the boundary, they will be welcomed to express their opinion, but if they cross the boundary, there should be some kind of disciplinary action," he said.

The Early Edition