A FORMER University of Hong Kong Students' Union official has criticised the university's new halls of residence. Law Kwok-keung, internal vice-president of the union in 1989-90 and a former resident tutor at one of the new halls, R. C. Lee Hall, said the high-rise architecture and the new location had weakened personal ties among residents. He also said the enlargement of the student community had diluted the cohesiveness of residents in the halls. Compared to most of the old halls, where the number of residents is around 100, the new halls, accommodating more than 350 residents on 16 floors, had made it more difficult for residents to get to know one another, Mr Law said. 'What is more, the new halls are located in Sassoon Road, far away from the main campus, making residents more detached from the rest of students,' he said. Despite the criticisms, other wardens were quick to defend the new halls. Robert Chung Ting-yiu, warden of R. C. Lee Hall, said the absence of traditional structures within the new hall allowed residents to enjoy a greater amount of autonomy, a condition which encouraged the development of a liberal culture. 'In well-established halls where seniority is emphasised, students may feel social pressures, but in the new halls they enjoy more freedom. 'An environment like this is best for fostering a liberal culture, the importance of which will increase nearer 1997,' Mr Chung explained. He said a liberal culture was made possible by heightening the democratic awareness among residents. 'Not only should the system [of the hall's student body] be democratic, but also the mentality of residents here,' he said. The development of mutual respect, protection of minority interests and an understanding of the pros and cons of the mechanisms of democracy were all vital for students, Mr Chung said. R. C. Lee Hall was built at Sassoon Road two years ago together with Lee Hysan Hall. The Wai Lun Hall was built at the same site last September. The three halls, each accommodating 376 residents, now constitute almost 50 per cent of the university's residential population. Their development is expected to play a significant role in the overall direction of hall education. Dr Luke Kang-kwong, warden of Wai Lun Hall, admitted the high-rise nature of the new halls affected the development of close ties among residents which had existed in older halls, most of which are spacious low-rise buildings. Yet the role of hall education in preparing future leaders for the community remains unaffected, he said. 'Hall life, as part of the university education, provides a unique opportunity for training students' independence. 'Living away from home, they have to learn to deal with freedom and how to use it to achieve what they want,' Dr Luke said. Intellectual development of students is another important aspect of hall education. 'Inviting guests to our high table to share in discussions helps provide students with guidance on social and international issues and stimulates their thinking,' he added. About 2,300 students live in the nine residential halls of the university, constituting nearly 30 per cent of its student population.