Students are raising concerns about a recent job listing posted by the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) on CareersOnline, a university-run job board for UBC’s students and alumni.
In an open letter directed to Kim Kiloh, director of the UBC Centre for Student Involvement & Careers (CSIC), student group UBC The Enlightenment of Hong Kong (UBCEHK) urged UBC to take down the May 8 listing.
The listing looks for permanent residents of Hong Kong to fill the position of Probationary Inspector. Individuals would be tasked to “prevent and investigate crimes” and prepare investigation reports, among other duties.
According to the open letter, the HKPF “has been notorious over the past months for violating human rights in the crackdown of democratic protests in Hong Kong.”
The letter also mentions that HKPF has used lethal weapons for “unreasonable enforcement.”
“There are countless footages [sic] documenting the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the Hong Kong Police against unarmed civilians,” the letter reads.
While a similar listing was removed from the portal at McMaster University, Phoenix Au-Yeung, public relations officer for UBCEHK, has expressed her disappointment at the lack of an action on UBC’s part.
“We have not received any response from Miss Kiloh or any person or department from the university as of now,” said Au-Yeung. “We are disappointed about such disrespect to students’ concerns that we could only learn UBC’s stance from CBC News.”
Au-Yeung said she thought that UBC would screen employers’ job listings and reject the Hong Kong Police Force's request, as “I expected the university to be aware of the numerous incidents in which the HKPF violated international laws.”
In a statement to The Ubyssey, UBC Media Relations Director of University Affairs Matthew Ramsey noted that while UBC “[is] aware of some student concerns related to the job posting,” it maintains that the decision of whether or not to apply to the posting rests with students.
“We provide support to students to research organizations and determine if opportunities are aligned with their interests and values,” he said.
Ramsey added that the CSIC works in accordance with provincial and federal guidelines in its employer recruitment practices, encouraging students to “make their career decisions independently.”
However, Au-Yeung believed that this lack of action by UBC is an indirect support to the force. “The university also has the responsibility to protect students … [and ensure] that their job boards are not co-opted to enable human rights violations abroad.”
Anson Hou, a third-year business student, was also “shocked” to find that HKPF had posted a job listing on UBC CareersOnline.
“UBC is a place of knowledge for students to thrive and grow, yet the university chose to allow a controversial organization to post job postings on our school’s website,” said Hou. “Especially [in] the times of COVID-19, people are looking for jobs and people might not be informed enough about organizations like these.”
Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International argue that while the COVID-19 pandemic has deterred demonstrators from gathering, it has not stopped the HKPF from continuing to arrest protest organizers.
In addition, a recent report from the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), the organization tasked with overseeing the HKPF, was met with scrutiny as it did not consider the force’s actions, which included the use of live ammunition and tear gas against demonstrators, to be excessive. Critics claim that the report doesn’t paint a full picture of the events of the past year and was written to effectively exonerate the HKPF of its own actions.
However, others say that despite some criticism of the force, the HKPF posting should remain on CareersOnline, noting that it shouldn’t be the job of the university to remove listings that cause controversy but don’t explicitly violate any standing guidelines or policies.
Jason Zhang, a third-year arts student, said that it was “just another job posting” on the platform. While he acknowledged instances of “unreasonable enforcement” by the HKPF, he believed that removing the post would undermine the demonstrators’ goal of freedom of speech.
Zhang believed that it should be left to students to decide if they want to apply to such jobs.
“I think students at a top university have the ability to decide which job they want to take,” he said.
While McMaster University has delisted the HKPF postings from their job board, they did not respond directly to McMaster Stands with Hong Kong, the group that spurred the outcry, nor did they release a public statement.
“The lack of a statement is a little shady because they did it very quietly as if they didn't want to draw any attention to it,” a spokesperson for the group told CBC News.
On the other hand, the UofT HK Extradition Law Awareness Group was provided a statement similar to what UBC provided to CBC News and The Ubyssey, stating that the university’s employer recruitment practices are governed by federal and provincial guidelines along with the University of Toronto policies, without giving any indication as to whether or not the listings would be removed.
In the meantime, UBCEHK have drafted a petition to garner more attention from the UBC community and other Hong Kong-focused student groups.
“If UBC expects [it’s] students to possess the virtues that it claims to uphold, [it] should set an example by standing with human rights and justice, and show respect for students' concerns,” Au-Yeung said.
A previous version of this article featured a photo which was not representative of the story, and has been updated to better reflect its contents. The Ubyssey regrets this error.