Hong Kong's top medical school has suspended this year's classes in Shenzhen, saying it would review the situation at the end of the year.
The announcement on Friday comes as medical students report an increase in searches by mainland authorities linked to the city's recent anti-government protests. Hongkongers of all backgrounds have reported that mainland immigration officers have asked to inspect their mobile phones at border crossings.
A spokesman for the medical school of the University of Hong Kong confirmed that students would not be attending classes in Shenzhen for the rest of the year. He did not link the suspension to tightened border checks.
"The school has always arranged for students to study clinical medicine at each teaching hospital, including in Hong Kong and Shenzhen," he said. "Currently, the school has no plan to arrange for students to attend classes at HKU-Shenzhen Hospital."
Medical students were notified this week that all compulsory courses at University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital in Shenzhen would be suspended for the semester that started in June, according to two medical sources.
A final-year medical student, who declined to give his name, said a recent group of his fellow students was asked by mainland officers to log into their social media accounts - like Facebook and Instagram - and delete certain messages related to the protests.
The sources said several medical students had written to the HKU medical school and expressed concerns about visitors to mainland China being searched.
The complaints prompted the school to discretionally allow students to skip classes at HKU-Shenzhen Hospital as long a valid reason was given, including safety concerns, according to an internal memo viewed by the Post.
HKU requires Year 4 students to attend classes and trainings at the hospital in Shenzhen, but the courses are elective for final year students. Medical students either spend several days in Shenzhen over the year or stay over for a few days to meet the classroom requirements.
In a email to students, the HKU's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, which is part of the medical school, said had suspended its one-day clinical class requirement at HKU-Shenzhen Hospital for the rest of 2019. No reason was given.
It happens at each and every border, it's nothing specialProfessor Lo Chung-mau, head of HKU-Shenzhen Hospital
Professor Lo Chung-mau, head of HKU-Shenzhen Hospital, said he did not know whether the medical school had suspended all teaching in Shenzhen, and he was unaware of any medical students being searched at the border with the mainland.
He said it was normal for immigration officers to search travellers.
"It happens at each and every border, it's nothing special" Lo said. "If one has nothing to fear, a search will not do any harm to him or her. When I went to the US, I was searched inside out, that's nothing strange."
Separately, students from 10 universities and more than 100 secondary schools were expected to join a class boycott in September. The city's Catholic diocese on Friday urged principals and secondary schools supervisors to advise students to think carefully before skipping classes in support of the protest movement.
According to an internal document between the church and educators, the diocese said "students of Catholic schools should use their time wisely in equipping themselves" to become good citizens.
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