China allows Catholic university in Macau to recruit students from mainland

The University of Saint Joseph in Macau. / Doraemon.tvb via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Macau, China, Sep 22, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

A Catholic university in Macau has been permitted to recruit students from mainland China on an “experimental basis” and only for four graduate programs.

Macau is a special administrative region of China. It was integrated into China in 1999, having previously been a Portuguese colony, and it is operated under the “one country, two systems” principle, like Hong Kong.

“I am very conscious of the responsibility that the Central People’s Government has placed in USJ through this permission, and want to give every assurance of our gratitude and sincerity. We will closely observe the detailed regulations concerning this permit and will spare no effort in seeking to repay the trust and confidence of the Ministry of Education, as we seek to demonstrate that we are a university in, of and for Macao, in of and for China,” Stephen Morgan, rector of the University of Saint Joseph, said in a Sept. 13 statement.

Morgan characterized the university as a “unique platform” for “co-operation between Chinese and Portuguese-speaking countries and as an example of Macao as a base for the harmonious exchange between the culture of the East and the West.”

The University of Saint Joseph, which is affiliated with the Catholic University of Portugal, is being run by the Macau diocese.

Morgan expressed his gratitude to Macau’s officials for “the constant advocacy of our case.”

In the first phase of the program, the university will enroll students in postgraduate courses in architecture, business administration, information systems, and science.

The authorization was granted Sept. 9 after years of cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding between the university and other institutions and offices in China.

Morgan said the openness shown by the Chinese government is “an opportunity to deepen partnerships, which until now have not been possible.”

“As with all higher education institutions in Macau, the University of Saint Joseph is working hard to offer a concrete response to the call made by [government officials] to diversify the economy through the development and application of our research work,” he said.

“We understand that there is enormous potential in this area,” said Morgan, citing cooperation efforts with the Institute of Oceanography of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao, among others.

In August, Morgan embarked on a tour of several Chinese provinces to explore “new opportunities for cooperation” and to strengthen existing memoranda of understanding, said the report in the diocesan paper.

The University of Saint Joseph was founded in 1996 as the Macau Inter-University Institute by the Catholic University of Portugal and the Diocese of Macau.

In 2019, the Diocese of Macau expressed disappointment in a patriotic light-show that had been projected on the remains of a famous Catholic church on the peninsula.

For three consecutive nights beginning Sept. 29, 2019, the Macau Government Tourism Office projected government principles and symbols onto the Ruins of St. Paul’s.

The event was named the “Glorious Splendor in Celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.” It projected pro-government statements, including Macau’s integration into China 20 years ago, and Chinese symbols, such as the country’s flag.

In an October 2019 statement, Father Cyril Jerome Law, the diocese’s chancellor, said the remains are an important symbol of the Church despite the property currently being under government control. He said the light show should complement the church’s historical origin.

“[The] faithful of the Diocese have expressed strong views over the matter,” he said.

“The show in question evoked reactions of discontent from quite a number of faithful of different nationalities, since it is deemed that the use of the historical monuments ought to correspond to its intended character,” he added.

In response to the chancellor’s statement, a Macau official said many people were happy with the light show. Alexis Tam Chon Weng, secretary for social affairs and culture, told Macau News that since its beginning, the program has not received any push back.

“I don’t think there was any problem with the contents of the mapping show,” Tam said. “There have never been any problems since the Macau Light Festival started five years ago.”

Both parties have expressed the need for more communication between the diocese and the government. Tam said he would strengthen dialogue with the Church in Macau. He expressed the need for mutual “tolerance” and understanding, Macau News reported

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