An Amnesty International official has urged tertiary institutions to teach compulsory human rights courses. 'There are widespread misconceptions about human rights among tertiary students and the general public,' said Angela Lee Nga-kam, human rights education officer at Amnesty's Hong Kong section. 'The issue of human rights has been highly politicised by the media and politicians. It has also been thought of as a Western concept. 'This has alienated people from the universal nature of human rights, which simply boil down to basic needs and values we live by every day of our life,' she said. The issue had to be treated purely as an academic subject, Ms Lee added. Civic education at schools touched on the matter, but as students reached tertiary level they needed a good understanding to help them respect others' rights and protect their own. Ms Lee said she believed human rights and related topics should be at the core of a compulsory civic or general education course. She said it would be important for law, journalism and social work students. 'I think such a course should include a number of issues such as individual freedoms, democracy, global education, world poverty and the environment. 'It could also incorporate national education elements to promote awareness of our Chinese heritage and the political and economic systems of China.' Ms Lee said the wide subject of human rights education did not only promote individual freedoms and tolerance of racial, religious and sexual differences. 'The lectures I deliver at universities promote many other values and feelings, such as self-esteem, sympathy and care for the poor, handicapped and AIDS patients,' she said. Michael Sandor, a lecturer at the University of Hong Kong's Law Department, agreed about the importance of human rights education, but said such a course would be a luxury because of the time involved. The department offered third-year students an optional course in human rights, he said. Law students learned enough about the topic through it being raised in existing courses and lectures, he said. They covered the Basic Law and Bill of Rights. The head of the Department of Journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University, Dr Yu Xu, said the department did not offer a course in human rights. He said the issue was very wide and had to be narrowed down to a journalistic perspective. It was touched on in relation to topics including professional ethics, the rights and responsibilities of journalists, freedom of the press and the legal aspects of the profession. 'Students can always pursue the topic in depth on their own if they want,' he added.