Agnes Chan willing to accept ‘any post’ amid rumours she is in line to be Hong Kong’s next education minister
Canto-pop singer turned writer says she wants to ‘bring a fresh breeze into Hong Kong’s education’
Canto-pop singer turned writer Agnes Chan Miling has said she would be willing to accept any education post, amid widespread rumours that she is one of the candidates to be Hong Kong’s next education minister.
According to online media Citizen News, which interviewed Chan on her new book, she was said to be one of the candidates whom chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had recommended to Beijing to be the city’s next education chief.
A spokeswoman for Lam’s office said the office was “unable to disclose information about the formation of the chief executive-elect’s governance team”.
Chan, who moved to Japan after marrying a Japanese man in the 1980s, has a doctoral degree in education from Stanford University. In the interview, she would not comment on the rumour directly, but said: “If it is what everybody wishes, I am willing to serve in any post.”
Chan said she had sent a draft of her book, 40 Education Proposals: Bring Happiness Back to Hong Kong Students, to Lam before it was published on Thursday. Lam did not send any feedback, she added.
Chan’s previous book, published last year, was about how she successfully sent her three sons to Stanford.
The 61-year-old said she was ready to take on any challenge to be able to contribute to Hong Kong’s education system, inside or outside government.
“I’m not saying that I really want to take this job,” she said. “I only hope to bring a fresh breeze into Hong Kong’s education.”
A mainland scholar who studies Hong Kong affairs questioned Chan’s suitability to be the next education secretary.
“A mother of Stanford students doesn’t mean she will be a suitable education secretary, let alone a suitable person in charge of national education,” said Tian Feilong, of Beijing’s Beihang University law faculty. “I think [Chan] lacks understanding and up-to-date knowledge in Hong Kong and Chinese affairs, and I believe the central authorities will draw a comprehensive and balanced conclusion.”
In the interview with Citizen News, Chan accused the Hong Kong education system of being elitist and training people to obey the government and the rules, instead of developing individual talents. She described the system as a colonial legacy.
She also accused the system of not teaching children history, leading to anti-China antics by young people, referring to Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who lost their elected Legislative Council seats for using a derogatory term for China used by the Japanese during the second world war, during their swearing-in.
“How dare you take the oath like this?” she said. “There are tens of thousands of bodies crying from the underworld. This is the failure of our education.”
She said some young people supported Hong Kong independence because they did not know history, especially the part about China being invaded.
She called for an “identity education”, where students were taught history, such as how Hong Kong became a colony, which country the city belonged to, and whether the opium wars were fair.
A popular singer in the 1970s and 80s, Chan married a Japanese man but kept her Hong Kong citizenship and passport and never held a Japanese passport, she said.
“I have never heard that Beijing has any concerns over me,” she said.
Tian noted that the post of education secretary would play a key role in the next administration.
“Against the backdrop of Hong Kong independence and separatism, the central authorities naturally place a strong emphasis on education, as well as the mentality and qualities of the office-holder,” he said.
Tian added that the next education secretary should improve guidelines to regulate teachers’ behaviour and provide more mainland study trips for local students. But he declined to comment on any specific rumoured candidates at this stage.