Occupy Central

2 schools back out of Occupy Central talks under pressure: Benny Tai

Organiser Benny Tai suggests pressure over civil disobedience plan may have prompted two schools to withdraw their invitations for talks

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 June, 2013, 4:19am

Two secondary schools have cancelled plans to hold talks about the Occupy Central movement "amid possible pressure", an organiser of the civil disobedience plan says.

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, associate law professor of the University of Hong Kong, shrugged off the schools' change of mind, but hit out at accusations that he was bringing politics into schools.

He was preparing for his next talk, at Heep Yunn School in Ma Tau Wai on July 8, he said.

Tai has been calling for at least 10,000 people to block roads in Central in July next year if the government fails to deliver an acceptable electoral package to achieve universal suffrage.

He visited two secondary schools last month to speak on the rule of law, and pupils asked him about Occupy Central.

"Two other schools said they would [invite me] … but one of them later told me [the invitation] was inappropriate while the other did not get back to me. I do not know why," he said. "I guess the issue is still sensitive, and the schools, teachers or headmasters may be feeling pressure."

He declined to say more about those schools or what the source of pressure might be.

Earlier on RTHK, Tai slammed criticism that he was swaying young minds with his political reform campaign.

"It wasn't why I went to the schools. I didn't initiate the talks, and [I did not want to] encourage under-age [pupils] to take part [in Occupy Central, either]." He would continue to deliver talks at schools upon invitation, he said.

A veteran educator who planned to take part in the movement indicated that the civil disobedience plan must not become taboo among pupils.

Professional Teachers' Union education research director Cheung Yui-fai told RTHK that during his liberal studies classes and "in discussions about universal suffrage, Occupy Central comes up as an example of social and political participation".

"Civil disobedience is also an idea included in our textbooks."

Another educator said he would not mention the civil disobedience movement in classes because it was still at a preliminary stage.

"It is definitely illegal, and as an educator, I do not want to see my pupils breaking the law," said Tang Fei, vice-principal of Heung To Secondary School (Tseung Kwan O) and a core member of the government-friendly Federation of Education Workers.

Tang said he hoped Hongkongers would focus on discussing how to achieve universal suffrage according to the Basic Law instead of debating Tai's plan.

On June 29, another core organiser, Chinese University Professor Chan Kin-man, will speak at a forum, "Whether Occupy Central should enter campuses", held by the pro-government The Sounds of Silence. Speakers include a parents' group member, a headmaster and a lawyer.