In a bid to tidy up the law before the transfer of sovereignty, legislative councillor Christine Loh Kung-wai is about to introduce a private bill on a touchy subject - the dissemination of political views in school. What makes her effort interesting is that while she is doing what the Government tried but failed to do six years ago, the Government is now a little hesitant about endorsing her move. The Education Ordinance used to provide for the 'prohibition of political, subversive or tendentious activities or propaganda in schools among teachers and pupils'. An implicit assumption of the provision was that politics was dangerous and should be banned from school grounds. Considering the territory used to be a battleground for right-and left-wing forces which operated schools to propagate their own brands of politics, the need for such a provision was understandable. But with the introduction of representative government, the provision was seen as an anachronism that impeded efforts to promote civic education. In 1990, the then-secretary for education and manpower, Yeung Kai-yin, said the provision was enacted at a time 'when our education system was in danger of disruption by contending political forces emanating from outside Hong Kong'. It should be repealed because 'our education system is now mature, and it is now considered timely to remove the provisions relating to political activity from this statute', he said. One would think that the Government's proposal would have been welcomed because it was trying to remove a draconian power to control political activities in school. But that was not the case. Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee was concerned that 'while our system of government becomes more politicised with democratic reform, our children should not become victims of political indoctrination or be in any way exploited for the purpose of electioneering'. Andrew Wong Wang-fat felt that since students were in a subordinate position to the school council, school principal and the teaching staff, there was a need to 'restrict ideological instillation [sic] and brainwashing at school on the one hand, and prohibit or monitor factional electioneering activities on the other'. After much discussion, it was decided the provision should not be repealed. Instead, it was amended to provide for the formulation of regulations 'to control the dissemination of information, or expression of opinion, of a clearly biased political nature in schools'. The amendment was reluctantly accepted by the Government. The Education Regulations were then amended to empower the Director of Education to give directions to schools on the dissemination of information or expression of opinion of a political nature to ensure it was 'unbiased'. Reacting to concerns that proving bias in court would be difficult, Mr Yeung remarked wryly that 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'. Six years on, the issue has not been put to the test because the relevant provision has never been invoked, even though several elections have since been held. In the 1991 Legislative Council elections there was a complaint against candidate David Chan Yuk-cheung, who drowned last month off the Diaoyu Islands, for using his connection with a school in Western to distribute election materials. However, the matter was referred to the teachers' council as a case of professional misconduct, instead of being dealt with under the Education Ordinance or the Education Regulations. Looking back, it was fitting that officials refrained from invoking the draconian provisions. If they had been used it would have required the Director of Education and schools officials to make judgments about political bias. To Ms Loh, 'the notion of bias provides virtually no guidance as to what expressions are to be censored; most political discourse is inherently and quite properly 'biased' . 'A demand by labour unions for better wages is clearly biased because workers have an interest in higher wages. Arguments made against that demand by employers' organisations are similarly biased,' she said. 'In practice, therefore, [the provisions] amount to an open invitation to political censorship, and for that reason alone should be repealed.' The Democratic Party has already pledged support for Ms Loh's bill. There is a good reason why other legislators should also support it - the definition of 'political correctness' may change with the transfer of sovereignty. Even though the civil service is supposed to be politically neutral, it is undesirable to vest officials with the power to decide what is politically biased. For however hard the officials strive to be impartial, their decision is bound to be seen as reflecting the view of the Government, whose policies may well be the subject of the complaint concerned. It is far better to leave it to the teaching profession to decide on a professional basis whether a particular school or teacher has improperly disseminated biased information or opinion to students. After all, the Education Regulations already provide that 'no instruction, education, entertainment, recreation or activity of any kind' should be 'prejudicial to the welfare of the pupils or to their education generally'. The Director of Education, Helen Yu Lai Ching-ping, told a recent meeting of Legco's education panel that there was a need for a provision governing the dissemination of information or opinion of a political nature as a deterrent against abuse. She was concerned that on its face value, a regulation concerning prejudice to the welfare of pupils would not cover political matters. But to Ms Loh, if a political matter does not affect student welfare or education generally, then the Education Department has no business regulating it.