Hong Kong Baptist University to review Mandarin requirement in bid to ease tensions
Although cooler heads are prevailing, a student who took part in campus protest returns home from internship at mainland hospital after phone threats
Baptist University officials promised on Tuesday to consider all possibilities in reviewing a Mandarin graduation requirement in a bid to calm tensions that had been boiling over on the Hong Kong campus.
Officials met students for the first time since about 30 students stormed the university’s Language Centre last week with student union president Lau Tsz-kei hurling vulgarities at a staff member.
After the orderly meeting, vice-president for teaching and learning Albert Chau Wai-lap told reporters that the school would review the Mandarin requirement by consulting different stakeholders.
“The university will consider all possibilities but we need to talk with not only students – students’ views are very important – but we need also to consider teachers’ views as well as the current expectations of the community,” he said.
The Post has learned that one of the students who took part in the protest put on hold his internship at a mainland hospital and returned to Hong Kong last night.
Andrew Chan Lok-hang, from the university’s school of Chinese medicine, is convenor of a Cantonese support group, Societas Linguistica Hongkongensis.
Chan said the decision was made after a discussion with the university and the hospital, after the hospital received many threatening calls against him.
Relations, meanwhile, between the administration and students had been frosty since the eight-hour stand-off at the centre.
The school had warned it was pursuing disciplinary proceedings against those who breached its code of conduct but Lau said he had not yet heard from it.
The matter centred on a test introduced last year for students seeking an exemption from taking a compulsory Mandarin course.
Results showed that 70 per cent had failed. Students questioned a perceived lack of transparency as the marking scheme was revealed last week – months after the test was conducted.
The students were also unhappy that the Mandarin module was compulsory.
Chau said the school would make changes to the next exemption test, which would be conducted later in the semester. Besides hearing feedback from students and staff, the vice-president added the school would conduct focus groups with those who took the test last year.
He explained that the policy was introduced more than 10 years ago, adding the school was constantly making adjustments.
Lau said before the 3½-hour meeting, management frequently used excuses to avoid discussing the Mandarin requirement.
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“It is the school’s responsibility to consult students on school matters,” he said. “We have no negative feelings towards Mandarin, but why must the school make it compulsory for us to study that?”
Lau said the module affected students who had other credits to fulfil, adding he hoped the school would trust them in discerning what course to study.
Professor Lo Ping-cheung, associate dean at the university’s faculty of arts, also urged the school to cancel the Mandarin graduation requirement.
He said that while he did not agree with some students’ dislike of Mandarin, he could understand why they were protesting against it.
“Education cannot be separated from the environment. The policy is not wrong, but it is not appropriate for this time period,” he said, adding that the unpopularity of the policy was related to the current political situation in Hong Kong.
He said since some universities in Hong Kong did not have such requirements, it would be reasonable to cancel this fulfilment.
With additional reporting by Danny Mok