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Hong Kong localism and independence

Teacher code on political stances from Hong Kong school body Po Leung Kuk is ‘crossing the line’

Guidelines for staff at about 40 schools under the body state teachers are ‘absolutely not allowed to distribute messages containing a political stance’

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 10:37pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 11:16pm

A school sponsoring body’s decision to issue guidelines stipulating teachers are not allowed to “distribute materials containing a political stance” has been criticised by educators, with some saying it was “crossing the line”.

In a recently revised code of conduct, Po Leung Kuk, which oversees around 40 primary and secondary schools in the city, stated staff were “absolutely not allowed to distribute messages containing a political stance on the school’s communication platforms” and were discouraged from doing so using personal platforms.

The code said teachers “should not” distribute such information to students on personal platforms, so as not to “affect their independent thinking and judgment”, and that they “should as much as possible avoid” releasing such information to “work-related stakeholders” to prevent unnecessary misunderstanding of the sponsoring body and its schools.

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The code also stipulated that if teachers violated the guidelines, disciplinary action would follow, with more serious cases leading to termination of employment.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen criticised the code as “crossing the line”, particularly in dictating the use of personal communication platforms.

“For example, even if teachers do not add their students on Facebook, youngsters might still find their teachers’ political views online. This could mean they are breaching the code,” he said.

Ip said teachers participating in political activities in a personal capacity could also be deemed to be violating the guidelines.

He added that the language used in the code meant teachers could get into trouble for simply exposing students to a particular political stance without even advocating it.

Ip, who is also vice-president of the Professional Teachers’ Union, said a number of teachers had raised the issue.

A Po Leung Kuk spokesman said a working unit consisting of principals and staff representatives came up with the code after consulting guidelines and opinions from different schools, and that school management committees could decide whether to practise it.