One of Asia’s most prestigious universities is on the frontline of a battle for democracy

Hong Kong (CNN) Students and lecturers at Hong Kong ‘s most prestigious university returned from summer break this month to a very different institution.

The Democracy Wall at the University of Hong Kong (better known as HKU) — a pinboard where students once shared political thoughts — is gone. The student union, which once advocated for students, is all but defunct, with four of its members facing charges of advocating terrorism.

Although many students and academics were happy to be back on campus — many for the first time since the start of the pandemic — a political chill hangs over the university that some staff say is influencing how they teach.