Mugabe's daughter studying at HKU under alias

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 January, 2009, 12:00am

The daughter of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is studying in Hong Kong under an assumed name.

Bona Mugabe - whose father and fellow leaders are banned from going to the United States and the European Union - began studying under another name at the University of Hong Kong in the autumn, a senior university source confirmed.

Her presence in Hong Kong emerged after her 43-year-old mother, Grace, allegedly assaulted freelance photographer Richard Jones as he took pictures of her shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui 10 days ago.

Mr Mugabe and members of his regime are subject to widespread international sanctions. Australia last year deported eight students whose parents are senior members of the Mugabe regime, saying it wanted to prevent those involved in human rights abuses giving their children education denied to ordinary Zimbabweans. The southern African country is in the grip of a spiralling economic crisis, political turmoil and a deadly cholera epidemic.

Asked about Ms Mugabe's admission, a university spokeswoman said: 'We believe that education should be above politics and young people should not be denied the rights to education because of their family background or what their parents have done.' She denied there had been any negative reaction from fellow students to the presence of Ms Mugabe, who is around 20.

The senior university source acknowledged that many students were unaware of the presence of Ms Mugabe - who is understood to be on holiday in Zimbabwe.

When she returned, the university would 'keep a watchful eye', the source said. 'It is an issue of protecting an individual's rights ... What if someone says they do not want to do the course with her?'

Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing called for a debate over the admission of students such as Ms Mugabe. 'Anybody can come to study in Hong Kong. Nobody has ever raised this issue,' she said.

However, Law Yuk-kai, director of Human Rights Monitor, said: 'A child who has not done anything wrong should not be asked to take the burden of the wrongs of their parents.

'I don't think because ... their parents have these kinds of issues, corruption or so on, there should be an embargo extended to deny a child a chance to study abroad.'

Asked about Bona Mugabe and visits by her parents to Hong Kong, a government spokeswoman replied: 'Every entry application is determined on its own merits.'