In mid-December last year, an anonymous e-mail was sent to a press organisation complaining that students at Shun Tak Fraternal Association Cheng Yu Tung Secondary School were under being watched by closed- circuit television cameras. It was revealed that 15 closed- circuit cameras were set up in the main areas of the school. Four cameras capable of 360- degree surveillance were installed on the outer wall of the second floor to watch the open playground and the area in between the canteen and the academic building. Another 11 were installed at the corners of staircases. Principal Tsui Kong-seng claimed the cameras were installed only for security reasons and had the support of the police force. The school's canteen had been broken into twice. Two other schools in the Tseung Kwan O neighbourhood had been broken into six times. 'We need to have our own security system,' said Mr Tsui. 'Since the school is just two years old, we have a lot of new equipment. We have multi-media computers and video and audio appliances worth a total of more than $1 million. We must take preventive action.' Tseung Kwan O Police Task Force operating commander Chiu Yin-ting said the school security system would help scare off thieves. Rights under question Mr Tsui said neither the privacy of students nor school activities would be affected by the cameras. The closed-circuit television only operates between 9 pm and 6 am. While students at Shun Tak jokingly say their school is 'the most secure school in the territory', the presence of the cameras has sparked debate. Some students feel the cameras are an invasion of their privacy, claiming that this intru sion violates their human rights. Others are concerned the school will use the cameras to monitor their activities. 'It will destroy the teacher- student relationship,' a second- former said. Hong Kong Human Rights Commission chairman Ho Hei- wah agreed the cameras were an invasion of students' privacy. 'Students will develop a negative attitude towards all aspects of school if they think their privacy is being invaded,' he said. Cheng Yu Tung is not the first school to employ security cameras. St Paul's College installed three closed-circuit television cameras early last year. La Salle College has had them for more than 10 years. Lee Shiu-fung, senior student discipline officer at the student discipline section of the Education Department, agreed that installing closed-circuit cameras on school grounds was an invasion of students' privacy and could have adverse effects. But Mr Lee said students' definition of 'personal privacy' might be different from the official one given by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data. 'Students' definitions of 'personal privacy' are more likely to be related to individual passion and feelings rather than personal data,' he said.