Hong Kong localism and independence

Student localists flout warnings to promote independence outside Hong Kong schools on first day of new term

Activists hand out fliers and promotional materials advocating a split from China, despite warnings from the education minister that to do so is against the Basic Law

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 11:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 11:29pm

Three localist groups distributing fliers to encourage independence talk among secondary school students at the start of the new academic year ran afoul of school authorities on Thursday.

On a visit to a primary school, the city’s education minister again suggested calling in police if students were harassed by activists.

Of seven groups that told the Post they planned to distribute separatist-themed fliers on Thursday, two said their members were summoned by school authorities and asked to stop.

One saw its materials confiscated after leaving them unattended on campus, and one changed its mind after discussing its plan of action with school management first. The remainder were able to hand out their fliers and stickers as planned.

A localist faction at The ELCHK Yuen Long Lutheran Secondary School was unable to distribute materials near campus, as one of its members, Leung Yin-lok, was interrupted in the middle of a media interview and taken inside the school along with the materials in his possession.

The fliers suggested finding a way out of the current situation in which the “one country, two systems” policy “exists in name only”.

After a four-hour meeting, Leung explained in a joint press conference with the school’s vice-principal and a teacher that he had cancelled his campaign for “personal” reasons. He said he had neither been threatened nor coerced.

Another member of the group said it felt “slightly” like political oppression as he did not consider handing out leaflets to be illegal.

Vice-principal Tam Kin-fun said the meeting was to “understand the students’ needs” and to “educate” rather than “punish”.

A member of the localist group at Munsang College in Kowloon City was also asked to meet staff members after handing out stickers featuring a passport design for a fictitious “Republic of Hong Kong” on campus. Vice-principal Louis Lui Hang-sum said the school was not punishing the student but wanted to find out the purpose of his actions.

Munsang’s localist chapter said the principal had suggested in the meeting that the group’s members were being “brainwashed” and “manipulated”, and warned them to stop distributing any promotional materials.

But at Ying Wa College in Cheung Sha Wan, Queen’s College Old Boys’ Association Secondary School in Tsing Yi and HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity in Kowloon City, activists were able to hand out independence-themed material outside campus smoothly.

Degas Chan Pui-chung, one of the Ying Wa localist group’s convenors and an alumni, said the principal told him in a meeting that the group could not hand out fliers on campus but they were free to do it outside.

Chan claimed the principal told liberal studies teachers to allow discussions on Hong Kong independence.

Lee Suet-ying, of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, said she agreed with the schools’ actions as it was the responsibility of educators to care about what students did in uniform, during school hours and near campuses.

Asked about the student activists’ campaign, Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim insisted that advocating the separation of Hong Kong from China went against the Basic Law.

He indicated again that he would leave it to schools to sort out such matters and monitor independence talk.

Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao and Lo Kinling