Angry students fight to preserve campus idyll

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 March, 2006, 12:00am

Rethink urged on work at Chinese University

Student activists have blasted Chinese University management for turning their hillside campus into an endless construction site and betraying the ideals of the original design of the university.

More than 2,000 students and staff have signed an online petition criticising the university's Campus Development Office and urging the authorities to halt the felling of trees and plants. It also calls for a rethink on the designs of new buildings, roads and paths on university grounds to better fit with the ideal of a green campus.

'It has been accumulating for a very long time,' said Benny Chow Hon-kit, chairman of the Chinese University Campus Environment Concern Group. 'There's construction taking place on the grounds all year. Widening pavements, maintaining slopes, new buildings. It never stops.'

The group has erected several banners detailing ongoing construction and reasons for putting a stop to the works in an essay entitled 'Unite to protect our mountain community'.

Rick Mak Chi-lit, a second-year IT student and fellow member of the concern group, described the campus off Tolo Harbour as the most beautiful in Hong Kong.

'It has always been well designed to provide a warm learning environment. But the construction that's now going on goes against the grain of all the careful planning that has come before.'

He pointed to the new Western Campus Teaching Complex and Centre for Chinese Archaeology and Art, new glass-and-metal structures currently being erected and scheduled for completion early next year.

'Those two buildings would fit in nicely in the business district in Central,' said Mr Mak, 'but they do not belong on a green campus. The building will act like a greenhouse, trapping all the heat, and you won't even be able to open the windows. There will be air-conditioning 24/7.'

The group also criticised the building of a pedestrian bridge to the KCR station, several temporary access paths paved with concrete and 'pointless' metal railings in gardens which they say destroys the natural harmony of the surrounding areas.

Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor Michael Hui King-man issued a statement defending the building works, saying the improvements were needed in the interest of student safety and to provide facilities in line with the university's academic development.

He pointed out that all construction had to be approved by the University Environmental Affairs Committee, consisting of professors, students and relevant professionals, as well as the Lands Department and the Environmental Protection Department.

He reiterated the university's commitment to environmental protection, citing the use of solar panels for hot water, promotion of recycling on campus, the installation of diesel catalytic converters on school buses, the use of recycled paper and planting of new trees.