National education in Hong Kong

Anti-national education class strike gets support of university authorities

Colleges to help students and staff take part in today's anti-national education class strike

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 4:17pm

Several universities have thrown their support behind today's citywide class boycott - the first in 20 years - as the organisers warn of further strikes if Leung Chun-ying fails to scrap the national education curriculum.

The chief executive responded on Saturday to massive protests by giving schools discretion to choose whether or not to teach the subject.

But Johnson Yeung Ching-yin, president of Chinese University's student union, said as long as the national education teaching guideline still existed in the education bureau's framework, it might still be put into practice.

"We think that [Leung's move] is a fake withdrawal and fake concession … they are trying to divert anti-national education [sentiment] from the government to the schools," said Yeung.

The four-hour boycott starts at 2pm and a rally will be held at Chinese University's "Million Boulevard".

The Federation of Students expects a turnout of 1,000 participants, and says more and more student groups are signing up to join the boycott.

Sung Jao-yiu, president of Chinese University, said yesterday: "The university has always respected freedom of expression … we will provide the necessary help [to the federation]."

He also said that if academic staff decided to take part, they could inform the school and arrange catch-up classes.

Similarly, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) president Tony Chan Fan-cheong said his college "respects the students' decision and will adopt an open attitude towards the strike".

"I admire their assertiveness in societal affairs. They show independent thinking," he said.

Staff associations at City University and the Institute of Education have issued internal e-mails to encourage academic staff to join the boycott. Baptist University's staff union has also expressed support for the action.

However, students at various universities had mixed opinions of the campaign.

Brian Lo Hoi-yung, a final-year accountancy student at City University, said the boycott was unnecessary as the government had backed down.

"This action has come too late. Last week, some activists did a [hunger strike] already and the government responded by scrapping the three-year trial period [for national education]," Lo said.

But Tony Lung Tin-keung, 20, a student at HKUST, disagreed.

"We understand that boycotting classes will not sway the government's stance. But what we would like to show is university students' determination," he said. "Even if it's just one primary school, we are determined to give them the freedom of thought they deserve."