Carrie Lam

Hong Kong teachers oppose appointment of pro-Beijing educator as undersecretary

Campaigners collect more than 10,000 signatures against naming of Christine Choi as No 2 in Education Bureau

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 July, 2017, 9:07pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 July, 2017, 10:18pm

The controversy surrounding the possible appointment of pro-Beijing secondary school principal Christine Choi Yuk-lin as the No 2 in the Education Bureau has escalated with an online petition opposing the move snowballing to 10,339 signatures in less than three weeks.

The signature campaign initiated by teachers was launched on June 21. One third of those signing were education professionals.

A separate campaign involving template letters organised by another group of teachers has seen 1,858 individual messages sent to education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

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Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung declined to “comment in detail” about the potential appointment, saying the government had proper procedures in place for selecting candidates.

The signature campaign organisers, together with a coalition comprising the Professional Teachers’ Union, parent and student concern groups and staff associations from the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University, said the choice of Choi as undersecretary was a mistake.

Yiu Gor, a biology teacher and initiator of the campaign, said: “What the chief executive values is the deep red background of Choi, which will pave the way for implementing national education”.

The Post tried unsuccessfully to contact Choi for comment.

In July 2012, when Choi was vice-president of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, the group published a booklet called The China Model, which was distributed to primary and secondary schools. Critics said it was promoting national education.

Late last month, soon after her possible appointment was reported, Choi appeared in a China Central Television news programme saying that one of her missions was to cultivate students’ recognition of the country.

The coalition said this showed that Choi’s stance was so strong that she was violating the professional code requiring educators to remain neutral and balanced.

It also warned that the trust and cooperation that was beginning to grow due to the new administration’s additional allocation of HK$5 billion for education might be lost if Choi was appointed.

Cheng Kai-ming, emeritus professor of education at the University of Hong Kong, said it was “a very bad starting point” to pre-screen candidates for administrative positions for their political views when there was no such vetting in formal government procedures.

“If the government decides on national education, whoever is in that position will have to do the job,” Cheng said, predicting that Lam would face challenges whether Choi was appointed or not.