Hong Kong’s education chief switches stance on appointment of deputy and says political views will now be a factor

Two weeks ago, amid rumours of pro-Beijing educator landing No 2 job, both minister Kevin Yeung and his boss Carrie Lam said emphasis would be on individual capability

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2017, 5:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 July, 2017, 8:36pm

Hong Kong’s education minister said on Thursday that political orientation would be a factor in the appointment of his deputy – two weeks after both he and the city’s leader suggested otherwise.

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung was responding to suggestions that the favourite for the No 2 job was Christine Choi Yuk-lin, a pro-Beijing education worker. Such rumours have prompted more than 17,300 people to sign a petition against her possible appointment.

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Choi, speaking out for the first time on Thursday, said that whoever became deputy secretary should care about students’ needs and the problems of the education system.

She was vice-president of the Hong Kong Federation of Education workers and previously oversaw the compilation of a booklet praising Beijing’s economic and political institutions as the “China Model”. Critics said it promoted national education, a controversial idea that was shelved in 2012 after large-scale protests amid claims that such lessons would amount to brainwashing.

Late last month Choi appeared in a programme on state-run China Central Television outlining her mission to cultivate recognition of mainland China among Hong Kong students.

Ip Kin-yuen, the pro-democracy lawmaker for the education sector, and others have criticised her pro-mainland stance and expressed fears that her appointment would lead to another push to implement national education by the new government under Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

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Responding to the controversy on July 6, Lam said candidates’ political background should not be a factor in government appointments, as this should be based on their capabilities. Yeung said on the same day that political orientation should not be an important consideration in an appointment.

Speaking at the Hong Kong Book Fair on Thursday, Yeung said: “The candidate’s political orientation is just one of many factors we will consider in choosing the deputy minister.”

But he said their credentials should come before their political stance. Yeung declined to comment on individual candidates as the selection process was still going on.

At the same event, Choi said: “I think whoever takes up the job should care about students’ needs and the problems of Hong Kong’s education system.”

On the controversy surrounding her possible appointment, Choi said Hong Kong was a diversified city and it was good to have different views.

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said if Lam was genuine in wishing for a harmonious society in which she could work with different stakeholders, she should reflect that in selecting her administration.

He said there could be a hidden agenda “if she appoints such a controversial person”.