Students from at least three publicly funded Hong Kong universities will have to learn about national security as a compulsory requirement from the coming academic year.
Baptist University on Monday said all undergraduates including overseas students admitted from September must undergo national security education in the form of seminars and talks as a requirement for graduation.
At Polytechnic University, all first-year undergraduates will be required to take a mandatory course to learn about legal issues related to the topic.
Lingnan University said it would include national security elements in its existing common core curriculum, which all students take, as well as hold talks and seminars on the country and Hong Kong’s development.
The Beijing-imposed national security law – which bans acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – requires the Hong Kong government to promote national security in schools and universities.
Dr Albert Chau Wai-lap, BaptistU’s vice-president for teaching and learning, said it was set to arrange compulsory national security education for all full-time undergraduates admitted from September, including non-local students.
He told a press conference the course would take the form of talks or seminars and cover a wide range of topics such as internet security, adding it was non-credit bearing.
The liberal arts institution in Kowloon Tong has more than 7,000 undergraduate students, with more than 10 per cent from mainland China or overseas.
Chau added: “At a university, when we implement certain policies, not all students will agree in the first instance. We will explain to them … and try to let them see what is going on.”
Asked if the university had any plans to limit certain research topics following the national security law’s implementation in areas such as Hong Kong independence and allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, president Alexander Wai Ping-kong said: “We cannot dictate what our academic colleagues would do or not do.”
But he added management would not advocate their colleagues breaking the law.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung on Monday said the government supported BaptistU’s plans to teach about national security as part of its curriculum.
The Post has contacted the five other public universities on whether they have detailed plans for rolling out similar courses.
BaptistU also said it would follow at least five other public universities and stop collecting fees on the student union’s behalf, a move bosses insisted was not an attempt to “cut ties” with the body.
Wai said the decision had nothing to do with recent controversies at other institutions, describing the practice as an additional service that was more appropriately performed by the body itself.
“We are not trying to sever ties with the student union,” Wai said in his first press conference since assuming the role in February. “If you are an independent organisation, then you should … collect [your] own fees.”
He added the university had already notified the student body of the new arrangement.
Earlier this month, the city’s oldest tertiary institution, the University of Hong Kong (HKU), severed all ties with its student union, after the latter’s council passed a motion appreciating the “sacrifice” of a man who on July 1 stabbed a police officer in the back before killing himself. The council later withdrew the motion.
Wai, an HKU alumnus, described the stabbing incident as an act of “terrorism”, but he declined to comment on the motion itself.
National security police are investigating the HKU student leaders, a probe launched after the group apologised and withdrew the motion amid pressure from top government officials and school management.
In February, Chinese University also effectively cut ties with its student body over concerns relating to the national security law.
Of Hong Kong’s eight public universities, Lingnan University, HKU, Chinese University, PolyU and City University have already stopped collecting student union fees.
Keith Fong Chung-yin, acting president of BaptistU’s student union, raised concerns over management’s decision to stop collecting fees on their behalf, saying carrying out the task itself could pose administrative problems.
“I believe university management has no choice after many other institutions’ have decided to stop collecting student union fees,” Fong said.
He added the university requiring full-time undergraduate students from overseas to take the national security course was “unreasonable”, describing it as “bringing politics into campus” and contradicting the values of internationalism and global diversity.