Grants for Hong Kong universities on hold after campus protests

Administrator ‘shocked’ that school was being used as ‘scapegoat’ during political turmoil 

November 28, 2019
Destroyed bamboo barricades outside Hong Kong PolyU

Financial support for Hong Kong institutions has stalled, just as universities are trying to repair campuses damaged by clashes between anti-government protesters and the police.

The University of Hong Kong (HKU), Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) all had funding requests shelved recently.  

While the proposals may be reintroduced at a later date, their delay demonstrates how dependent the city’s universities are on state funding, as well as on larger political considerations. Hong Kong’s eight main universities are public institutions with the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, as their ex officio chancellor. The Lam administration and the police force have been roundly criticised by the public, including by members of the university community.  

Proposals to upgrade the city’s two medical schools, at HKU and CUHK, were removed on 26 November as agenda items for the city’s legislature. The original proposals would have given HK$194.3 million (£19 million) to HKU and HK$59.7 million to CUHK to build a new complex. The South China Morning Post cited an unidentified pro-government lawmaker saying that he and others in his camp would not vote for the proposals for now, over unhappiness at how universities had managed recent violence.     

The government has also pulled a HK$1.4 billion request for PolyU. This funding would have supported teaching and healthcare facilities located at a site not physically connected to the main PolyU campus, which had been occupied by protesters for almost two weeks and left in a state of “complete disarray.”

Lam Tai-fai, PolyU’s council chairman, was “shocked” by the decision to pull the funding proposal. Speaking on Radio Television Hong Kong on 27 November, he accused the authorities of making the school a “scapegoat” and added that most of the protesters barricaded on campus were not even PolyU students.   

The day after Mr Lam’s comments, a 100-strong team of police and rescuers ended the occupation of Poly U, which they entered to remove dangerous materials such as petrol bombs and to ferret out remaining protesters in hiding. Repair work is expected to take months.

joyce.lau@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

he accused the authorities of making the school a “scapegoat” and added that most of the protesters barricaded on campus were not even PolyU students. it's sounds like a joke.
According to university administration, there were 46 registered Poly U students among the 1,100 arrested on campus.

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