The winding up of the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) following mounting political pressure has been met with shock and regret. Not only does it raise questions over the rights and representation of tens of thousands of teachers, but also casts doubt over the future of the opposition camp in an increasingly difficult environment. Just days ago, the 47-year-old union was struggling to adapt after the Education Bureau severed all ties after it came under attack from state media for political activism. In response, the PTU took several conciliatory steps, including a pledge by its leaders to focus only on education affairs and create a new group that would promote a better understanding of Chinese history, culture and national affairs among teachers. However, those moves could not bail the 95,000-member body out of the crisis. Hong Kong’s biggest teachers’ union ‘seeks to speed up dissolution’ The PTU would not be drawn on what exactly prompted its abrupt decision to disband , but attributed it to pressure arising from the changing social and political environment. “Even with the many options we have thought about, we cannot find one that is feasible,” union president Fung Wai-wah said. An extraordinary members’ meeting will be called and the union aims to disband in an orderly and reasonable manner. With an annual turnover of HK$300 million, 200 members of staff, several properties and an extensive network of retail, medical and other services there is much at stake. It should dispose of its assets in a transparent manner and put the interests of staff and teachers first. No less important is the protection of those in the teaching profession. The union enjoys strong support, as reflected in the crowds at its premises following Tuesday’s announcement. Currently, its rival, the Beijing-friendly Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, is no match in terms of membership and influence. The long-standing divide means the vacuum is unlikely to be filled any time soon. This is not helped by the muted response from the Education Bureau, which only said it would continue to work with deserving professional education groups and communicate with schools and teachers. No evidence Hong Kong teachers’ union breached security law: top adviser Whether the union will still face criminal liabilities once it is dissolved remains to be seen. There appears to be conflicting signals, with Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu Chak-yee vowing to pursue national security violations in accordance with the law, while a government cabinet member said there was no evidence the union had broken the law. In any case, state media has not softened its tone, saying the authorities should punish any offences accordingly. The demise of the union is a lesson for others struggling to adapt to the new political environment.