The government says it needs more time before it can release key findings of a public consultation that led to the introduction of the national education subject.
The South China Morning Post and a reader filed requests this month for details of the consultation, including how many of the 1,000 submissions agreed the subject should be made compulsory following a three-year preparation period.
The Education Bureau said the requests "require tracing back various sets of records" so the information was not readily available. Citing a provision of the Code on Access to Information, the bureau said the request would require extra time to process due to the "exceptional" nature of the case.
In a reply to the reader, dated Monday, the bureau said an answer could not be provided until September 20 - after the school year begins.
The consultation was conducted from May to August last year, after which the government announced the implementation timetable. Officials say the introduction of the subject was the result of a wide-ranging dialogue among those involved, including government officials, parents, schools, and teachers.
But critics, led by a teachers' union and student groups, found in their own surveys that most did not agree national education must be compulsory for all schools. The same topics could be taught through other subjects, such as history. A survey by the Professional Teachers' Union last year of 2,000 teachers found 70 per cent opposed compulsory national education.
Student activist Tommy Cheung Sau-yin said the government, in not announcing the details of the consultation, had failed to fulfil its responsibility of being transparent to the public. "The consultation happened more than a year ago and the final product is available," he said.