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Updated: 2007-11-13 9:46:09
The mainland student’s suicide last week has prompted calls for local universities to allocate more resources to help mainland students adapt to the academic environment in Hong Kong.
Ge Weiwei, the victim, who was a Jiangsu chemistry doctorate student, hanged himself on Saturday in his hostel room in the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), where he joined in 2004.
The 24-year-old student had written in his blog that he had problems in interacting with local students and asked whether he should make a change of his life that was spent only in laboratories, the hostel and supermarkets.
He suffered from depression, and was under medication, a HKUST spokesman said.
A university professor and mentor had gone to Jiangsu to assist Ge’s parents coming to Hong Kong for funeral affairs.
It was not the first time HKUST had faced similar incidents. In 2004, a 27-year-old mainland doctorate student jumped to his death.
And a second-year Hunan physics student Yin Riqiang was found missing in Shenzhen for 15 days in August after his scholarship had been cancelled.
A first-year mathematics student, who had previously studied in UC Berkeley, locked himself in HKUST hostel in September.
The HKUST spokesman said counseling service and activities, such as Cantonese class, were provided to non-local students.
Other universities said they did not have record of the number of help requested by mainland students, but said helping measures were launched, including matching the mainlanders with local students and assigning them to host families.
A mainland student surnamed Cheng, studying master degree in HKUST, said she had had hard times adjusting to Hong Kong in the first year of her studies.
“I just felt lonely all the time. I did not know what’s going on in Hong Kong. I just kept making long distance call to my home and made 4,500 minutes of long distance call a month,” she said.
“It was not because I did not want to mix with Hong Kong students. I spent most of my time inside the laboratory, and the other students working in the lab were also from the mainland,” she said, adding that some classmates had never left the campus for months.
The situation continued until the first summer holiday when she had time to go out with other mainland students.
A student from Fujian, Su Zhiyang, who is taking a master degree in City University after graduating from Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), said the differences between the education system in Hong Kong and on the mainland were shocking.
Su said he had achieved outstanding results in the mainland university admission exam, but he could only get between 2.3 and 2.5 out of 4 grade point per unit in HKBU in the first year, meaning his results were only satisfactory.
“That is shocking,” he said.
Hong Kong Association of Mainland Graduates chairman Geng Chunya said the problem would be more serious when the quota of non-local students is increased to 20 percent from the current 10 percent.
Geng said it was not the academic pressure, but the mainland students’, especially male, slothfulness to explore social life in Hong Kong, that created the problems.
He said some mainland students were ignorant of how to manage their studies and life independently.
“The families have high expectations of their children, and adopt strict discipline and teaching. Sometimes, the children just do not know how to handle the situation when they are left alone in a strange city,” he said.
Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union tertiary education spokesman Fung Wai-wah said universities need to strengthen services to mainland students.
“Mainland students will not seek help on their own initiative. It is necessary for university staff to reach out to these students,” he said.