Hong Kong Education Minister, Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, has tasked universities to restrict entry into their institutions following the occupation of campuses by protesters in the past few weeks.
Kevin Yeung made this statement on Saturday, a day after police ended a 13-day siege of Polytechnic University, which had been occupied by more than 1,000 pro-democratic protesters.
Yeung emphasized he was in full control and responsible for the education sector, and stressed the need to improve university management and increase the restrictions on entry into their institutions.
He said universities should put measures in place to improve their day to day operations and management, which would include producing and installing new security measures in universities.
The siege saw anti-government protesters barricade themselves inside the Polytechnic University, turning the campus into a fortress. The stand-off between protesters and riot-police saw running battles and violent clashes involving bow and arrows, Molotov cocktails (petrol bombs) and tear gas.
According to police, more than 10,000 petrol bombs were found from several universities over the past few weeks and 810 people had been arrested during the siege at PolyU. A total of 318 people aged under 18 had their information recorded since the beginning of the lockdown on the campus.
The Education Minister told newsmen that, although university presidents were primarily responsible for the management of their campuses, he was ultimately responsible for whatever happens in the education sector.
Yeung added that the education curriculum of many universities in Hong Kong had been disrupted by the exodus of international and mainland students and the reluctance of teachers from abroad to come to Hong Kong.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-Chung said he hoped the end of the PolyU incident would mark the resumption of peace in the city.
Hong Kong reconstruction of damaged Universities
After the last set of protesters appeared to have finally vacated the Hong Kong’s university, one of the most violent demonstrations the country has ever seen ended and staff have begun picking through the chaotic aftermath.
Executive vice president of Polytechnic University, Dr. Miranda Lou, said that the University had suffered severe damages.
She further explained that they intend to reopen the school quickly saying:
We hope we can re-open the school soon to start our work of restoration and reduce the impact on our students and our scientific projects.
Police chief superintendent, Ricky Ho, has said the police are working round the clock to restore the safety of the campus, and to reopen the campus as soon as possible.
He said the police are seriously scanning the campus to look for any dangerous materials and make sure it was safe for return to academic use.
Health minister Sophia Chan Siu-chee, has also noted that lawmakers have also expressed concerns over the security of facilities in universities.
Education Minister supports ending UGC
The Hong Kong university’s funding has been targeted in the aftermath of the campus pretests. The University Grants Committee (UGC) government set up in 1965, function as a buffer between the government and the universities to ensure their relative autonomy.
The cutting of funding by the center is seen by many as a move by the government to punish universities for failing to stand by and endorse its policies.
Yeung said the University Grants Committee (UGC), the funding body for the eight publicly-funded universities in Hong Kong, would contact the campuses affected to understand their needs and difficulties and to provide the necessary help.
Yeung also defended the government’s decision to withdraw funding proposals of HK$2 billion for three universities, which included an expansion plan for library facilities at PolyU.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-Chung, while speaking at a public event, denied the withdrawal of the funding proposals was a punishment for the sector. He said he hoped the funding proposals could be resubmitted within this legislative year soon.