Hong Kong teacher is punished for discussing independence from China

Hong Kong primary teacher is struck off after asking pupils ‘what is freedom of speech?’ and discussing independence from China

  • The teacher reportedly showed students a video of a pro-democracy activist
  • Pupils were asked to discuss freedom of speech and independence from China
  • Authorities disqualified the unnamed teacher for ‘violating Hong Kong’s law’
  • Pro-Beijing leader hailed it as a blow against ‘black sheep’ working in education

A Hong Kong teacher has been disqualified for allegedly promoting the city’s independence from China in class and discussing freedom of speech with their pupils.

The Education Bureau said the unnamed teacher had been struck off for ‘deliberately disseminating pro-independence messages’, a move hailed by the authorities as a blow against ‘black sheep’ working in the education system.

The decision is the first time Hong Kong’s Education Bureau has removed a teaching licence because of the content of lessons, and comes as a crackdown on democracy supporters in the city gathers pace.

A Hong Kong teacher has been disqualified for allegedly promoting the city’s independence from China in class and discussing freedom of speech with their pupils. The file photo shows students walking at the Shatin Tsung Tsin Secondary School in Hong Kong on May 27

The decision is the first time Hong Kong’s Education Bureau has removed a teaching licence because of the content of lessons, and comes as a crackdown on democracy supporters

The teacher had reportedly shown the class a video featuring a pro-independence activist and asked the students questions such as ‘what is freedom of speech?’ and ‘What would Hong Kong turn into without freedom of speech?’, according to reports.

The Education Bureau accused the teacher of violating Hong Kong’s Basic Law, its de facto constitution, by having ‘spread a message about Hong Kong independence’.

‘To protect students’ interest and safeguard teachers’ professionalism and general public’s trust in the teaching profession, the education bureau decided to cancel the teacher’s registration,’ it said in a statement. 

Their disqualification was hailed by the city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam as a blow against ‘black sheep’ working in the education system. 

‘Our work has to continue to remove the black sheep from the field of education,’ she told reporters.

‘If there are a very tiny fraction of teachers who are using their teaching responsibilities to convey wrong messages to promote misunderstanding about the nation, to smear the country, and the Hong Kong government, without basis, then that becomes a very serious matter.’

The Education Bureau said the unnamed teacher had been struck off for ‘deliberately disseminating pro-independence messages’.  A group of school students are pictured placing their hands on their chests during a protest at a school in Hong Kong on October 2

Their disqualification was hailed by the city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam (pictured on October 1) as a blow against ‘black sheep’ working in the education system

Hundreds of officers in riot gear are seen on Thursday patrolling and heckling pro-democracy activists who were marching against a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing. A police officer displays a warning banner on China’s National Day in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong 

‘It can clearly be seen that Hong Kong independence is the theme of the lesson,’ deputy secretary Chan Siu Suk-fan told a press conference Tuesday afternoon. 

Chan said the teacher’s lesson plan and materials for Primary Five students — who are about 10 years old — involved discussion of a banned political party that advocated Hong Kong independence, and also touched upon topics related to Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan independence. 

The Education Bureau’s decision was also slammed by human rights organisations as another illustration of freedom of expression being ‘increasingly eroded’ in Hong Kong since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law.

Amnesty International’s Joshua Rosenzweig criticised the punishment and said it sent an ‘ominous message’ to the city’s educators on the risks of discussing current affairs, politics and human rights in the classroom.

‘The Hong Kong authorities must not use national security as a pretext to unnecessarily censor educational activities, and they should not reprimand teachers for encouraging students to think about legitimate questions related to Hong Kong affairs,’ he added. 

Hundreds of officers in riot gear are seen on Thursday patrolling and heckling pro-democracy activists who were marching against a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing

Officers in riot gear conducted stop-and-search operations along an expected marching route linking the prime shopping district of Causeway Bay with the administrative Admiralty district. The picture shows a protester arguing with officers in Hong Kong on October 1

Education has become a key target for Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing administration after months of huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy rallies last year.

Many young people took part in the protests, which called for police accountability and greater autonomy for the city.

China’s central government imposed a sweeping security law on Hong Kong in June, outlawing public calls for independence and other allegedly subversive political views, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Education minister Kevin Yeung said he would not transfer the case to the national security bureau because the infraction occurred before the new law came into effect.

The news comes after Hong Kong police have arrested at least 60 people on suspicion of unauthorised assembly on China’s National Day holiday after crowds gathered on the streets of a popular shopping district chanting pro-democracy slogans. 

On Thursday, riot police flooded the streets of Hong Kong to stamp out anti-government protests during China’s National Day celebrations as pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam has cheered the city’s ‘return to stability’.

Hundreds of officers in riot gear were seen patrolling and heckling pro-democracy activists who were attending a banned march against a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing.

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