Baptist University arts students get reprieve

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:16pm


Baptist University arts students battling to continue classes in an east Kowloon heritage building have been allowed to stay for another year.

But there is still uncertainty about the fate of the Academy of Visual Arts campus, as it will be required to resubmit a proposal to retain the use of the site 12 months on.

The government yesterday confirmed its decision to temporarily allocate the site housing the former Royal Air Force officers' mess to the Education Bureau from September 1. This allows the university's visual arts academy to stay, and to continue paying its current rent of HK$50,000 a month, after its lease expires at the end of this month.

The announcement came ahead of an auction on Sunday, organised by students, of more than 70 lots of donated artworks to raise funds to save the campus, which has grade one historic status and won an honourable mention in the 2009 Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for cultural heritage conservation.

Students had been unaware of the campus' reprieve, and were surprised they had not been told. They lamented the government's insincerity in resolving this issue, saying it made almost no attempts to directly talk to students.

Students have been putting up a fight after it was revealed that the rent for the campus would rise from HK$50,000 a month to the market rate of HK$300,000 after the initial lease ended on August 31.

The original plan was to move the academy to the university's new Communication and Visual Arts Building, but students said it did not suit their needs. Students subsequently initiated protests and fund-raising campaigns, hoping to raise HK$3 million to pay the higher rent.

The university welcomed the news. The chairman of its council, Wilfred Wong Ying-wai, said it 'really cannot afford the market rate' and the government's reprieve allowed it time to work out a new plan to retain use of the campus.

The officer's mess and an annex, hidden on a wooded slope and built in 1934, were part of an RAF base at Kai Tak. The university has leased the site since 2005.