Academic discussion of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 will not be taboo at the soon-to-open Shenzhen branch of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the institution's president said yesterday.
"There's nothing that we can't talk about. Anything within the academic field can be discussed," Professor Xu Yangsheng said. "June 4 is a political issue. If it's related to political studies it can be covered."
Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, a joint venture with Shenzhen University, will start accepting applications from students next month for the academic year beginning in September.
Xu said students who studied at the new institution would take general education courses - including history and law - that were identical to those at Chinese University in Sha Tin.
Asked what would happen if students were arrested by mainland authorities for commemorating the June 4, 1989, crackdown or any other political reason, he said he would bail them out.
"For a president, students must be protected," he said. "But I also hope they will not violate the law."
Xu, the former pro-vice-chancellor of Chinese University, pledged to defend the academic freedom of the new institution.
"We have to uphold academic freedom if we want to nurture future leaders. We have to do that to train their critical thinking skills, international horizons and sense of social responsibility."
Unlike other mainland universities, where the management is usually jointly run by a Communist Party official and the university head, the new institution is headed by the president, who will work under a governing board with 16 members; eight from Chinese University and eight from Shenzhen University.
The board is chaired by professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, the vice chancellor of Chinese University.
In its first academic year, the university, with a 100-hectare campus in Shenzhen's Longgang district, aims to admit 300 students from the mainland and Hong Kong for its school of management and economics.
Its schools of science and engineering and humanities and social sciences will open in the following academic year. Students can choose from 23 undergraduate programmes, 15 of which - including bioinformatics, design and manufacturing, innovative media, new energy and engineering and urban studies - are not offered at the Sha Tin campus.
Teaching will be in Chinese - mainly Putonghua - and English. Tuition fees will be less than 100,000 yuan (HK$127,000) a year.
The Sha Tin university's signature college system - under which students belong to colleges with their own hostels, dining halls and other facilities - will also be brought to the Shenzhen institution.
Meanwhile, Chinese University plans to spend an estimated HK$4 billion to build a non-profit teaching hospital on its Sha Tin campus, which is expected to provide 500 to 600 beds.
The hospital, which aims to provide surgical services such as cataract operations - for which patients face a long waiting time at public hospitals - is expected to open in 2018.