Hong Kong should deal firmly with university unrest

By Zhang Qingbo Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/29 21:38:41

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The recent scandal involving the Hong Kong Baptist University (BU) is heart-wrenching. Not satisfied with its Mandarin proficiency test and policies, about 20 students stormed the university's Language Center and threatened and insulted their language teachers. Two students were suspended and BU's Students' Union later organized a gathering to protest against the school's "abuse of procedure." Slogans against BU principal also appeared on a bulletin board. Despite drawing public condemnation, some students have still not relented.

Such scandals in Hong Kong universities are hardly news. In September last year, former president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Student Union hurled insults at Chinese mainlanders, asking them to "Go back to China, Chee-na person," a very offensive term. On January 2016, former Hong Kong University student union president Billy Fung attempted to force his way into the school building and threatened a university leader saying: "Don't let him go! … Kill him!"

It is heartbreaking to hear about such scandals in which universities are pulled up for negligence though they are not in the wrong. Setting students' mistakes aside, there is much room for Hong Kong's universities to improve in terms of education and management.

Take the BU scandal in. Soon after the incident, school officials held a meeting with students and made two suggestions - adjusting the policy of Mandarin test and reviewing a Mandarin graduation requirement. This led to a public outcry accusing the university of giving in to students' demands.

When students are obstreperous, it is easy for universities to lose standards. A professor of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University once said that the common problem of universities is the lack of rules and discipline.

Hong Kong universities have their reasons for being lax when it comes to student management. As Student Unions are registered as social organizations, universities have no right to supervise. Some teachers have been encouraging students to be involved in illegal activities, destructive practices in classrooms and challenge authorities in the name of righteousness. Some media outlets are misleading students while piling pressure on the universities' management. There have been pro-independence radical forces infiltrating campuses, causing troubles and tension.

It is the schools' responsibility to protect and take care of their students. However, tolerating and harboring those without morals and respect for law is more dangerous. Why should we care too much for a student if he does not even respect his teachers and insults them?

Management officials in Hong Kong universities should get tougher. They should punish those pro-independence students who obviously violate the Basic Law. Those involved in illegal activities should be issued warnings or be slapped with restrictions on use of school resources. Universities should be able to dismiss employees and faculty members who encourage students to engage in illegal activities and review their evaluation systems.

While attaching importance to students' views, national consciousness and social responsibilities have to be kept in mind.

It can be argued that such scandals have to some extent led to declining ratings of universities in Hong Kong. Tough love is also love. The city's schools should be determined to sanitize their ambience and not turn the campus into asylum for pro-independence forces.

The author is a Global Times reporter based in Hong Kong. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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