Release submissions for national-education consultation, says NGO

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 3:20am

The full findings of the consultation that led to the launch of national-education classes must be released or the government will be accused of hiding facts about it, a human rights watchdog says.

The government claims most respondents to last year's consultation backed the introduction of the subject in schools, although the figures given vary wildly. The government refuses to release details of the 1,000 submissions it received, citing privacy concerns.

"Being transparent is the basis for modern government," Chong Yiu-kwong, vice-chairman of the NGO Human Rights Monitor, said yesterday. "If the government is not holding back the figures, it should get permission from the relevant submission writers in order to publicise the consultation process."

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said on a television talk show on Sunday that the findings of the consultation, which ended last August, could not be released yet because of "privacy issues" and the fact that some who took part might not want their identities revealed.

Ng told ATV that 65 to 70 per cent of those consulted supported national education, which will be launched in primary schools next month despite protests from critics who deride it as a "brainwashing" tool.

"I believe [opponents] represent a sector of the community but definitely not the bigger sector of the community," Ng said.

His comments seemed to contradict the account of the consultation committee chairman, Professor Lee Chack-fan of the University of Hong Kong. Lee has said that up to 90 per cent of those who took part in the consultation were positive about national education.

Chong said the full results of the consultation must be released to clear up public doubts about national education, which will be compulsory in primary schools from 2015 and secondary schools a year later.

"If you go to the libraries, there are plenty of documents regarding the government's previous consultations, even for controversial ones such as the Article 23 [security laws]. Why is the national education consultation so special?" Chong asked.

Ng also said on the programme that he and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying were enduring "frustrations" about public opposition to the subject.