Hong Kong Baptist University's Mandarin language requirement for graduation has incurred many students' discontent. During the on-campus referendum in 2016 which proposed the abolishment of the mandatory Mandarin Chinese language proficiency examinations as a pre-requisite for graduation, the student body overwhelmingly voted against the Mandarin language requirement. The university responded last year by introducing a Mandarin language assessment through which students can be exempted from the Mandarin language requirement by achieving a passing score. Yet only approximately 30% of examinees were able to pass the inaugural test held in November 2017.
In response to students' concerns, Civic Passion's chairman and Legco member Dr. Cheng Chung Tai submitted a letter of concern to the Equal Opportunities Commission on January 17, in which he suggested that such university policy could be deemed racist and discriminatory.
Cheng noted that the Hong Kong Baptist University has been actively recruiting exchange students as well as students of non-Chinese descent, in an attempt to 「internationalise」 its student body. To the best of his knowledge, however, the controversial Mandarin language requirement does not apply to these students. The lack of an equivalent language requirement for Cantonese proficiency for non-local students of Chinese descent (from Mainland China) is another area of concern.
Cheng pointed out that the Racial Discrimination Ordinance explicitly forbids racial discrimination in educational establishments. By introducing additional graduation requirements for local Hong Kong students while exempting foreign and Mainland Chinese students from the same language requirements, however, Baptist University has effectively given preferential treatment to non-local students and discriminated against local Hong Kong students based on race.
Cheng cautioned that the act of discrimination against local Hong Kong students might spread beyond Baptist University to the entire educational sector or even the rest of Hong Kong, putting young Hong Kongers at a disadvantage. He urged the Equal Opportunities Commission to thoroughly investigate the possible differential treatments of local versus non-local students by Baptist University.