Translator: Dezhou Ruiqiu; Reviewer: Wencheng
According to the Hong Kong Citizen News, on November 10, a teacher of the Kowloon Tong Alliance Primary School was accused of using teaching materials to advocate Hong Kong independence on purpose. The authorities cancelled this teacher’s registration for “serious professional misconduct”. Since the end of last month, Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) interviewed 125 primary and secondary schools’ principals with questionnaires. More than 70% of the principals interviewed believed that the decision of canceling the teacher’s registration is unreasonable; and 72% of the principals interviewed believed that the Education Bureau (EDB)’s judgment is subjective and the justifications are not sufficiently convincing. The authorities did not give a clear definition of “advocate HK Independence”. Interviewees also thought EDB’s tactics against the procedural justice. Additionally, 82% of principals disagree with the EDB disclosing the teacher and the school’s names as such disclosure will only make people fearer, but doesn’t help improve the education system.
In addition, nearly 70% of the principals interviewed believed that this incident had an extremely negative impact on teacher’s daily work; more than 70% believed that it had a negative impact to Hong Kong’s development in education; nearly 50% stated that schools had received anonymous complaints against teachers.
Ip Kin-yuen, Member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong for Education constituency and Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU), stated that the current investigation system is not fair to teachers. Besides accepting anonymous complaints, there are no hearing arrangements for investigation, which causes teachers to not have chance to defend themselves. He also emphasized that a large number of cases referred to in the teaching materials may not be applicable to the actual teaching situation. He pointed out that this incident may decrease teachers’ teaching quality: “Everyone is very worried to cross the red line. Teachers are afraid of getting into trouble, so they would rather not teach if there is some uncertainty. Our education finally would become very boring, monotonous, and limited by only reading the textbook. This would lead to a significant and profound impact on education.”
Yeung Yun-hung, stated that, from June to August of last year, the Bureau received a total of 247 complaints regarding teacher professional misconduct, of which 73 were not established, 71 were established, and about 60 are still being followed up.
Among the established cases, in addition to canceling the registration of a teacher from the Kowloon Tong Alliance Primary School as the teacher advocated Hong Kong independence using teaching materials; the Bureau also issued condemnation letter to 21 teachers, warning letter to 12 teachers, written advise to 19 teachers, and a verbal warning to 18 teachers.
Yeung Yun-hung also stated that the most serious punishment of the current law is the cancellation of teacher registration. The current permanent secretary does not have the statutory power to do other things. Issuing warnings and letters of condemnation are only administrative decisions. Therefore, he believes that the law can be amended to allow periodic disqualification, pay cut, or no salary payment for teachers who receive complaints.