Pupils said they were told the video interviews would be kept private. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Pro-government group accused of posting video of secondary pupils without consent

Anger after video of children praising political reform plan is posted online without their consent

Lai Ying-kit

Pupils' privacy should be respected, the education minister said yesterday, after three schools accused a pro-government group of putting a video clip of students praising the government's political reform package online without pupils' consent.

The schools said the youngsters were emotionally disturbed after the video drew both support and attacks from internet users.

The parents of one pupil at Maryknoll Fathers' School in Sham Shui Po, have already lodged a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner, accusing the group of infringing privacy.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said his bureau would offer assistance to the schools if they needed it. "This is basic respect for the students, and the privacy right of the students is very important," Ng said.

He urged any party that still had the video, filmed in April by the Federation of Hong Kong Guangxi Community Organisations, to delete it. But Ng declined to comment when asked whether the bureau itself would look into the federation's activity and the video incident.

The six-minute, 48-second video shows seven pupils, some in school uniform, taking turns to say what was good about implementing the government's blueprint on reform.

They were among 40 pupils taking part in interviews in April as part of an application for a study tour to the United States this summer organised by the federation.

The federation said it made it clear to pupils before filming that the video would be uploaded to the internet. It said the recording of their views bore no relation to whether they would be selected for the trip. But the schools said that was not the case.

A pupil from Maryknoll Fathers' School said through the school that federation staff members stated before filming that the video would not be made public.

School principal Lobo Ho Lik-sang said: "Before filming, the pupil's parent asked the staff about the use of the video and whether it would be publicised. The staff members clearly replied to the parent that the clip was for internal reference only and would not be made public."

Another school, Holy Trinity College in Shek Kip Mei also plans to complain to the Privacy Commissioner. It said the federation had made no mention of putting the video online when one of its pupils asked about it.

"After filming, the pupil telephoned the federation and asked it not to put the video online … the staff member agreed to the request," principal Jane Or Ho Yim-ching said.

The clip was circulated on social media and discussion forums online after it was posted to YouTube.

While some internet users praised the pupils for "making a good point" and having the "courage to speak their minds", others accused them of betraying Hong Kong's interests or being naive to be used by the group to promote the government's political reform package.

The video has been removed from YouTube "to protect the interests of the interviewed pupils and avoid them from further harassment," the federation said.

It was also taken down yesterday from the Facebook page of the group Occupy Central Does Not Represent Me.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said it would handle any complaints according to established procedures.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Minister backs pupils on privacy