Education chief fails his first Tiananmen 'test'
New education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim yesterday recalled how he shed tears while watching the Tiananmen Square crackdown, but shrugged off questions as to whether the student democracy movement should be vindicated.
Ng said June 4, 1989, was one of just four times in his life when he had cried and told radio host Albert Cheng: 'It is unfortunate ... students should have freedom of expression, but it [the protest] led to unfortunate events.'
He refused to say if the crackdown should be reassessed, despite being repeatedly pressed by Cheng.
Last month's June 4 vigil was the biggest in years, with organisers putting the figure at 180,000.
High-profile figures in the city are often asked for their view on the crackdown and it is considered a touchstone for whether a politician is in the pro-democracy or Beijing loyalist camps.
A day earlier, housing chief Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, a former Democratic Party vice-chairman who took part in the 1989 protests in Hong Kong, said no judgment of the events of June 4 should be drawn until all the facts became available.
Ng's remarks agitated some callers to the radio programme.
One accused him of not being frank on 'key questions'.
'No Chinese should say it's an unfortunate event. It's sinful,' the caller said. 'Maybe your tears were sincere but what you have said today is hypocritical. How can you be qualified to be the education minister? How can you tell teachers to sincerely teach their students.'
Ng, whose background is in human resources, said his views on June 4 were in line with those of the public and insisted that his priority was to improve the education system.
Leaving the studio, Ng was confronted by protesters calling for the government to scrap plans for a compulsory national education syllabus in schools. The subject is due to be taught from 2015, but critics fear it could be used for indoctrination.
Ng accepted four slices of bread with the phrase 'Vindicate June 4' on them from members of the secondary school pupils' protest group Scholarism.