Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong chief CY Leung doubles down on independence talk in classrooms

Chief executive says there is little to no room for discussion of topic on campus as city is ‘clearly an inalienable part of China’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 11:35am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 11:22pm

Comparing how foul language is treated in schools versus in public, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pointed out that school rules were stricter than society’s laws as he weighed in once more on the debate over independence talk on campuses.

There was little, if any, room for discussing Hong Kong’s independence in schools because the city is “clearly an inalienable part of China”, Leung said on Tuesday morning.

He also reiterated that promoting the city’s separation from mainland China was “absolutely not a matter of free speech”.

Leung was speaking as politicians, educators, students and parents continue to argue over how teachers could handle independence discussions in schools without losing their jobs.

Student activists have set up at least 21 localist groups in schools to discuss independence for Hong Kong.

On Monday, executive councillor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun waded into the debate by saying independence talk was “too complicated” for school campuses, and pro-independence political groups should be banned from schools.

Speaking before the Executive Council’s weekly meeting, Leung said: “School rules are stricter than laws in the society. For example ... you won’t go to court for using foul language, but a student can be kicked out of school for swearing and ignoring warnings for him to stop.”

He added that “there is little, if any, room for secondary school students to discuss” Hong Kong independence.

“Because from perspectives such as historical, political, constitutional arrangements and stipulations in the Basic Law, it is very clear that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of our country. What room for discussion is there?” Leung asked.

“It is clearly a matter of black and white, right and wrong. There is nothing unclear about it.

The Education Bureau set off a storm a week ago by warning that teachers risked disqualification if they encouraged students to engage in pro-independence talk.

Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim reiterated on Tuesday morning that events advocating independence had no place in schools. He added that parents hoped that students could study in a safe and professional environment.

On providing guidance to schools, Ng also stressed that principals and teachers already had the experience to deal with independence-related matters and there were already guidelines, such as the Education Ordinance.

Exco member Law, who served as director of education and the permanent secretary for education and manpower between 1998 and 2006, said on Monday that there was no need for teachers to single out independence-related topics in class discussions.

Instead, to help students have a better understanding of Hong Kong’s position in the Basic Law, she suggested different teaching methods be adopted.

For primary pupils, she said: “It is like ‘the law forbids people from killing people’. Just remember it.” For secondary level, she said teachers could trace the historical roots of the First Opium War and explain to students how Hong Kong was taken as a colony by the British.

Additional reporting by Peace Chiu