Hong Kong school connected to exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen

However, staff and directors of the school deny it incorporates teachings of Gülen, who has been accused of being behind Turkish coup bid

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2016, 5:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2016, 10:35pm

A local school in Tsuen Wan has been found to have connections with exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, blamed for the failed coup attempted against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government on July 15.

The Post has found that Rosebud Primary School, run by Ease Education Limited, a charitable non-profit organisation, has five Turkish directors. Three of those directors also sit on the board of Pearl Institute Limited, a non-governmental organisation promoting the teachings of Gülen.

The Gülen movement is also known as Hizmet movement or “the service”. According to the Pearl Institute, the teachings are based on two basic principles: tolerance and dialogue. It looks to promote a liberal and moderate teaching of Islam, forming bridges “between religions and civilisations”.

Rosebud Primary School vice-principal Kurt Omer denied any involvement with the Gülen movement. “It’s the first time I’m hearing about this,” he said.

“[Ease Education Limited] was established by some Turkish businessmen who lived in Hong Kong. While it was set up by Turkish businessmen, we use the international primary curriculum.”

The school is attended by 90 children from 23 nations.

Ease Education and Pearl Institute co-director Ibrahim Erdem Congar also rejected the school’s association with Hizmet, saying that the initial intention was to provide quality education in Hong Kong for the children of Turkish businessmen and educators that set up the school.

“It’s a secular school. We don’t teach religion [at Rosebud]. I mean we only have one Turkish teacher,” he said.

Erdem stressed that the curriculum followed Hong Kong education guidelines and international standards, and did not incorporate any Hizmet teachings.

Attempts to reach parents for comments were unsuccessful due to the summer holidays.

Mark Hall, director and producer of Killing Ed, a US documentary investigating schools connected to the Gülen movement, said schools involved with the movement would never blatantly admit the connection.

Hall believes the movement has motives other than what is publicly available: “Well it’s conjecture, but based on what happened in Turkey, the Gülen movement has had political goals for a number of years.”

Erdem said the movement faced misjudgment and harassment, especially because of its philosophy of “inter-faith dialogue”.

Last week, a failed coup attempt was made against the Turkish president and his government by members of the Turkish army.

Erdogan accused Gülen and his followers for orchestrating the unrest. The cleric denied this and condemned the uprising, countering that the Turkish president may have staged the coup himself to strengthen his grip on power.

The movement has been designated a terrorist organisation by the ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey.

Gülen currently lives in self-imposed exile in the US, but the Turkish government has called for his extradition.