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Five of the eight public university heads in Hong Kong signed a statement in which they said they “understand the need for national security legislation.” China approved plans last week to impose national security legislation that will give Beijing broad powers to quash protests and which is seen by critics as undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, semiautonomous Hong Kong is governed under a separate legal framework than mainland China. The right to free speech and assembly is enshrined in the Basic Law that serves as Hong Kong’s constitution. Pro-democracy protestors filled the streets in Hong Kong last year, and some of the protests turned violent, prompting university closures.

The statement from the five university heads says that "[a] safe and stable environment, a robust legal system, the rule of law, maintenance of law and order, as well as inclusiveness and diversity are key to Hong Kong’s long-term development. We fully support ‘One Country, Two Systems’, understand the need for national security legislation, and value the freedom of speech, of the press, of publication, of assembly, and other rights the Basic Law confers upon the people of Hong Kong."

Leaders of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Lingnan University and the University of Hong Kong signed the statement. It goes on to say, “Our universities will continue to stand fast in upholding the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy, as well as promoting academic excellence and embracing diversity, and contributing to society.”