HK extradition bill: education boss Christine Choi condemns teachers and students for plotting classroom boycotts

13-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s education authority has hit out at teachers and students for planning to strike against the government’s controversial extradition proposal.

Undersecretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin’s warned them to express their views safely and without disrupting school operations after some teacher and student groups voiced support for class boycotts and joining a rally outside the Legislative Council Complex on Wednesday, when the bill resumes its second reading.

The agitation from the education sector is part of what is expected to be a massive strike against the fugitive plans, including more than 2,000 counsellors, carers and therapists from 50 social work organisations and religious groups.

Speaking to reporters after Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung met with school managers and principal representatives, Choi said it was not responsible and appropriate to take part in the strike

 (South China Morning Post)

(South China Morning Post)

“There are so many ways they can express their opinions or views… we urged [schools] to put students’ safety and interests as the most important consideration and not affect schools’ operations,” she said.

Choi also reminded pupils to beware of their safety and not participate in illegal activities when expressing their views.

“We cannot be indifferent towards this [impending] strike,” she said.

Earlier in the day, the Professional Teachers’ Union called on its members to attend a protest rally outside Legco on Wednesday after school hours.

The union, which represents the largest number of teachers in Hong Kong, also asked school managers to be “flexible” if teachers wanted to join the rally during the day.

Union president Fung Wai-wah said it would discuss with teachers the possibility of a strike.

“We prefer suspending normal classes, but secondary and primary school students can stay in schools and have alternative arrangements, such as taking civic education lessons,” Fung said.

The union said its stance on the political situation was a professional imperative.

Separately, two petitions for teachers to support a strike on Wednesday were circulating online. The petitions had gathered more than 3,900 signatures in total, from kindergarten to tertiary institution teachers, as the Post went to press.

“As professional educators, it is our duty to cultivate students’ awareness about freedom, peace, equality, sensibility and democracy,” one of the petitions read.

Fielie Fung Yiu-cheung, the headmaster of the Baptist Rainbow Primary School in Wong Tai Sin, said one of the school’s parents had proposed a strike for pupils.

Fung said the safety of his pupils had to come first and if parents applied for casual leave for their children through standard procedures, they will be handled as normal.

Annie Cheung Yim-shuen, a spokeswoman for Parents United of Hong Kong, said the group heard some parents wanted their children to skip school the next day to protest against the contentious bill.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had pleaded for schools, businesses and unions to think twice before going on strike, saying it would put the future of young people on the line.

But the city leader refused to back down and vowed to press ahead with the amendment bill, which, if passed, would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions which the city lacks an extradition deal with, including mainland China.

Critics have said the bill would leave Hongkongers at risk of unfair prosecution on the mainland, where they said fair trials were not guaranteed.

Joining the opposition against the strike are the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools and the pro-establishment Federation of Education Workers, which both issued statements calling on educators not to abandon their posts.

“It is extremely unethical and shameful [for groups to encourage pupils to skip school],” the federation’s statement read.

In the higher education sector, student unions of seven Hong Kong tertiary institutions, including Chinese University and Baptist University, have called for students to boycott classes or internships for the rally. It is the summer break, or the semester is nearing its end, at most universities.

“We need to tell the government no Hongkonger accepts this evil law,” said Gigi Chow, the external secretary for Polytechnic University’s student union.

Meanwhile, an unofficial petition from workers in the airline industry calling for unions to strike gained traction on Tuesday, with around 1,500 signatures.

A Cathay Pacific spokesman said it was monitoring the situation closely, while a Hong Kong Airlines spokeswoman said its focus was on offering its best service to customers.

New World First Bus Company Staff Union has asked bus drivers to carry on with their work duties on Wednesday.

“As the road traffic on that day could be very chaotic, we are calling for bus drivers to work according to safety guidelines,” the union wrote in a Facebook post.

These guidelines included driving at a slow speed, avoiding overtaking on roads in urban area and motorways and dropping off passengers only at designated space of bus stops.



Category: Hong Kong

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