Universities face tighter belts

Local | Sophie Hui and Stella Wong 3 Dec 2019

Polytechnic University council chairman Lam Tai-fai said it is unreasonable for the university to bear repair expenses alone, saying it is a scapegoat for the government's problematic governance.

Protesters occupied the campus not to target PolyU, but to "borrow" the location and air their grievances against government, he said on a radio program yesterday.

"I think we are the scapegoat in the incident, we are innocent, as it was clear that their [protesters] target is not PolyU They were targeting the government," he said.

He said the campus has become a battlefield as protesters "borrowed" the place due to its proximity to the Cross Harbour Tunnel.

"Because of the governance of the government and its relationship with citizens, we became the scapegoat. If we have to bear all [the repair costs], I think this is unreasonable," he said.

"PolyU is not doing political work, it's doing academic and teaching work, it's irrelevant [o politics]," he added. "It does not make sense if university has to pay for political problems."

He said the university is assessing the impact of the occupation on scientific research, which remains unclear.

This came after the government pulled funding requests for expanding two universities' medical teaching facilities from the Legislative Council, which a public doctors association said will leave the SAR with an even bigger shortage of hospital staff in the coming years.

DAB lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan yesterday questioned if there is a real need to build new buildings for the medical schools.

Speaking on another radio program yesterday, Chiang said there are too many universities in Hong Kong, adding that the dropout rate is high, with almost 2,000 students dropping out in the past academic year.

She is also worried that the government does not have enough money amid an expected economic downturn.

Chiang denied that pulling the funding requests is related to the clashes at university campuses.

Arisina Ma Chung-yee, president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors' Association, said the funding involves the issue of public health.

Local medical schools have added 90 percent of places in 10 years due to a shortage of doctors, but spaces and facilities at medical faculties have not increased accordingly, she said.

Ma said students have been learning in small classrooms without enough desks, with some even sitting on staircases.

sophie.hui@singtaonewscorp.com

stellast.wong@singtaonewscorp.com

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