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Tuesday, Dec 01, 2020

Hong Kong protests: City University reveals bill to fix vandalised campus will run to hundreds of millions of dollars

CityU is the first of six universities which were damaged during recent anti-government protests to provide an estimate in a public statement. Masked protesters vandalised CityU’s main administration building, sabotaged president’s office and broke into laboratories this month

City University of Hong Kong has revealed that the bill to fix facilities damaged after radical protesters vandalised many parts of its campus this month will run to hundreds of millions of dollars.

It became the first of six universities which were damaged during recent anti-government protests to provide an estimate in a public statement, saying on Saturday repairs and restoration of facilities would cost a nine-digit figure.

That came as top government officials said universities which faced difficulties in paying huge repair bills from their recurrent funding, such as Chinese University and Polytechnic University, could seek help from the Education Bureau or consider applying for funding in the Legislative Council.

“We will first look at the extent of the damage and the restoration works that have to be carried out; and whether [the universities] have been insured and how much can be covered. These are all factors for our consideration,” Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said.

Earlier this month, masked protesters vandalised the CityU campus’ main administration building, sabotaged the president’s office and broke into laboratories.

Other places on the Kowloon Tong campus were damaged and set on fire on different days. Roadblocks were set up outside its student residence as protesters heeded calls for citywide traffic disruptions. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd while radicals hurled petrol bombs.

In a reply to the Post, CityU said the cost of repairing damaged facilities would “run into hundreds of millions of Hong Kong dollars”, but it was not yet decided whether the bill would be covered by the university’s recurrent funding or if it would need to seek extra funding.

CityU also said it would hold discussions with the University Grants Committee – the funding body for the eight publicly funded universities in Hong Kong – on restoration costs.

Some of the more seriously damaged buildings and zones would have to remain closed for restoration work to be carried out, but the campus would reopen in stages from Monday with enhanced security measures including access control at all entrances.

The university has closed its campus since mid-November while classes for the first semester ended two weeks early and final examinations were cancelled.

Government subventions account for about half of yearly income of publicly funded universities, although each institution has its own financial arrangements.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s campus in Clear Water Bay, which also suffered damage including the vandalisation of president Wei Shyy’s residence on November 8 following the death of student Chow Tsz-lok who had fallen from a car park near an area of confrontation between protesters and police.

HKUST did not reveal the bill for repairs, but said in a statement on Saturday that restoration and cleaning works were close to completion and all the costs incurred were covered by the university’s recurrent government funding.

Chinese University and PolyU have not announced their losses. Both universities suffered serious damage to campus facilities after stand-offs between radical protesters and police over the past few weeks, with PolyU president Teng Jin-guang saying restoration works would take half a year.

The University of Hong Kong’s campus in Pok Fu Lam, as well as Baptist University in Kowloon Tong, were also vandalised but the damage was less serious.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said publicly funded universities had a responsibility to ensure costs were transparent as the public also had a right to know.

He believed the government should bear a “major proportion” of restoration costs because of its responsibilities “as the culprit of protests over the past few months”.

The protests were sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill in June but evolved into a wider anti-government campaign.


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