The suggestion from the former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office that the education minister should "correctly guide" schools under the supervision of the central government has triggered alarm among the city's educators. Chen Zuoer made the remarks yesterday as part of a two-day forum on the city's education. It was organised by the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies think tank, of which he is chairman. "Does he want the central government to directly instruct and manage Hong Kong's education affairs?" asked Jacob Hui Shing-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Liberal Studies Teachers' Association. "This is not what we understand about the spirit of the 'one country, two systems' policy. [Chen] should explain whether his comments represent the central government's will." Hui said he felt Chen's comments were like "asking the education sector to pay the bill" when the problem had been caused by an unrepresentative political system and the bad impressions created by a boom in mainland tourism in the city. The principal of a Catholic school, speaking anonymously, said Hong Kong educators had been "delighted" to see students exercise civic responsibility and independent thinking by joining the Occupy movement. Mainland officials and scholars viewed them as extreme and rebellious. "It's a cultural difference," said the principal. "Mainland education focuses on obedience and being loyal to the country, but Hong Kong people value freedom and critical thinking." He said Beijing should respect Hong Kong's values if it wants to win the people's trust and national identity. Joshua Wong Chi-fung, of student group Scholarism, said Beijing was rejecting Hong Kong students by cancelling their home-return permits and denying them entry into Macau. He said if the government tried to revive plans for Chinese patriotism classes - which opponents labelled brainwashing - it would see a repeat of the mass protests which forced it to shelve the idea in 2012. Education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said Chen was trying to turn a political conflict into an education problem, which was disrespectful of the stipulations in the Basic Law that the Hong Kong government should make its own education policies based on the past system.