Date
24 January 2017
Hong Kong has earmarked HK$1 billion to promote exchanges among youth in nations covered under China's 'One Belt, One Road' program. Photos: Youtube, HKEJ
Hong Kong has earmarked HK$1 billion to promote exchanges among youth in nations covered under China's 'One Belt, One Road' program. Photos: Youtube, HKEJ

Belt & Road scholarship plan may be tweaked after criticism

The government could revise its so-called belt and road scholarship program to focus more on assisting local students, rather than young people from overseas, in cross-border travel and exchanges.

The plan is likely to be tweaked following criticism that the original proposal failed to give top priority to Hong Kong youth, Sing Tao Daily reported, citing sources close to the government.

Details such as the number of quotas to be assigned to students from “Belt & Road” countries to study in Hong Kong and vice versa, as well as the list of applicable nations are yet to be ironed out.

A detailed proposal is expected to be submitted to the Legislative Council’s Panel on Education in June, the report said.

While pan-democrats have voiced concerns about the HK$1 billion scholarship program, political parties from the pro-establishment camp, such as the New People’s Party and the Liberal Party, said they doubt if local students would be interested in traveling to some of the Belt and Road nations.

Initial reactions from political parties seemed to suggest that the government might face resistance in passing the bill at the Legislative Council.

Neo Democrats’ Ku Chun-hin has sought a judicial review on the government’s proposed scholarship for Belt and Road countries, arguing that subsidizing students from overseas countries with taxpayer money constitutes a violation of the Basic Law.

New People’s Party chief Regina Ip said she will decide her stance on the government bill after reviewing the details.

She said she doubts if many local students would be willing to pursue studies in less developed countries.

Meanwhile, if Hong Kong brings in only a limited number of foreign students under the scholarship program, there will not be any significant improvement with regard to internationalization of local campuses, Ip said. 

Andrew Leung Kwan Yuen of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong said the number of scholarship places should be equally allocated to local and overseas students.

Democratic Party’s Sin Chung-kai said scholarships awarded to local students and overseas students must be at least in the proportion of 80 to 20. Otherwise, the entire proposal could be rendered meaningless, he said.

Civic Party’s Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said if HK$1 billion is to be spent, it should be used instead on boosting the student places in local tertiary education.

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