Alumni of Li Po Chun United World College (LPCUWC) have urged the school to rename its Belt and Road Learning Centre and divulge more details about its funding. They said that failure to do so would cast doubt on its political impartiality.

In May, the college received an HK$50 million donation from the Lee Shau Kee Foundation with which to open a “Belt and Road Learning Centre.” The foundation is a philanthropic initiative led by retired Hong Kong tycoon Lee Shau Kee. The centre is due to open next Autumn.

Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong
File photo: Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong.

It will be named after the Belt and Road initiative, a controversial economic plan that will expand China’s geopolitical sway across Eurasian countries.

The LPCUWC said it would organise short courses and trips to enhance students’ understanding of Belt and Road economies, as well as provide scholarships to students from those countries. The donation was approved by the UWC International Board in October.

‘Casts doubt’

The centre has since drawn ire from critics for its “implicit endorsement” of China’s politics.

“The establishment of the centre casts doubt on the political impartiality of LPC and UWC,” alumni said in a petition.

“[The Belt and Road] functions not only as a geographical term, but also represents a Chinese-oriented regional development framework. The naming of the centre undeniably represents the institution’s implicit endorsement of this political view, regardless of intent.”

Belt and Road China
The Silk Road Economic Belt is the overland interconnecting infrastructure corridors based on the original Silk Road. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is the sea route corridors. File photo: Wikicommons.

“We urge LPC and UWC International to stay vigilant against any potential political influence,” the former students added. “Only by staying politically impartial can UWC truly be a free and open place that unites peoples and cultures, regardless of borders and political backgrounds.”

LPCUWC is one of 17 United World Colleges around the world. These colleges pledge to “make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.”

The school said that the Belt and Road Learning Centre is part of a larger strategic plan in which the school aims to encourage cultural exchange between international and local students.

An additional sum of HK$30million was received from other donors to refurbish and maintain the school’s campus.

All signatures will be sent to LPCUWC and UWC International Board alongside the petition letter on Monday.

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.