In what was a highly emotive meeting, last night (Thursday) saw Sheffield Students’ Union Council pass policy supporting Hong Kong students.

There were a number of heartfelt contributions from both sides, including from Chinese and Hong Kong nationals, and a large number of observers for the contentious meeting.

Passed by a two-thirds majority, the policy calls on the SU: “1. To condemn any violent confrontation between protesters belonging to our SU. 2. To declare publicly the Students’ Union’s support for the Hong Kong democracy movement. 3. To call on the University to make an official statement regarding Hong Kong. 4. To ensure the safety and security of Hong Kong students on campus and to defend their right to freedom of speech.”

Six weeks ago, Forge Press reported on concerns voiced by Hong Kong students about the lack of welfare support being offered by Sheffield SU, although this policy should signal a change in the SU’s approach to what has proven a controversial issue.

Two amendments were also voted on in the course of the policy’s debate. The first amendment called on the SU to condemn all violence between protesters, and “reiterate publicly the Student Union’s support for any peaceful democracy movement and everyone’s right to freedom of speech.”

The second amendment called on the SU to condemn all violence of those caught up in the dispute, both in Hong Kong and on campus. It also called on the SU to “not make a public declaration or support for either side,” offering a compromise on the contentious issue.

Both amendments fell short of the two-thirds majority needed.

The meeting also saw a change of venue for the SU Council meeting. As part of efforts to promote the work of the SU’s highest decision-making body this year, they have been held around campus including as far as the Diamond. This meeting was initially slated to take place in the Arts Tower, but due to high interest it was moved to Foundry in the SU building, while those who wanted to observe proceedings had to apply ahead of time.

Security was also high, and bag searches took place outside the meeting. Digital devices, like phones and laptops, weren’t allowed inside of the council meeting once it began.

The majority of voting, such as the final votes on the policy and its amendments, took place through a secret ballot. For the sake of transparency, proposers of the policy and the amendments which went alongside it were invited to oversee the count as it happened. Some of the votes were taken by a show of hands.

The observer block was unusually packed, with around 50 students present to watch the discussion of the policy as it happened. Some in the observer block were also given the chance to speak in favour or against the policy, and in line with SU Council’s debating conventions, any speeches for the policy had to be balanced out with speeches against.  

One student, sat in the observer block, was removed for causing disruption during the meeting. When questioned as to whether the student would be formally reported to the SU, Council received reassurances that the incident would be investigated.

If you have any concerns about the issues raised in this article, the Student Advice Centre can be reached on 0114 2228660, and Nightline can be reached on 0114 222 8787.

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