After uproar, Hong Kong education minister clarifies Basic Law broadcast optional for schools
Official claims the reply slip was meant to get idea how many would participate
Hong Kong’s education minister clarified it was optional replying to an invitation to stream a live broadcast of a Basic Law seminar featuring a top Beijing official after the call drew criticism.
His comments came after pan-democrats feared the Education Bureau was exerting pressure on school operators and government schools to have their pupils watch the event and might brainwash their views on the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
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Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung on Thursday explained the reply slip was intended to give the bureau an idea of how many schools would participate in the programme and help with broadcast preparations.
“But if a school feels it is already well prepared, it does not necessarily need to reply,” he said.
Yeung added that since experts would attend the event, pupils could first listen to their explanations and then ponder what was raised, or participate in discussions after receiving guidance from teachers.
Education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen welcomed the move to make replying optional, which he said could reduce pressure on schools and sponsoring bodies.
“Schools and sponsoring bodies can make arrangements in accordance with their professional judgment,” he said.
Ip pointed out that the seminar was aimed at people who understood the Basic Law at a certain level, rather than general secondary school pupils. For this reason, he argued, it was inappropriate for such schoolchildren to watch.
The former principal also urged the government to learn from the episode, respect schools’ professional judgment in implementing Basic Law instruction and not let politics override education.
The circular, issued to school operators last week, stated the seminar to be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre next month would celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule.
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According to the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei is to deliver a speech about Hong Kong’s role and mission under both the country’s constitution and the mini-constitution.
Four other experts in the field were expected to share their views at the event also.