Unruly students learned ‘improper behaviour’ from Occupy movement, says Hong Kong education chief
- Kevin Yeung Yun-hung told Legco meeting that the eduction system needed to instil positive messages and values in students
- Campus protests have resulted in injuries to 16 people in the last five years
Hong Kong’s education chief told lawmakers on Wednesday that 16 people have been injured during protests on university campuses in the last five years, saying students had learned about “improper behaviour” from the Occupy movement and clashes in the Legislative Council.
Kevin Yeung Yun-hung was responding at the weekly Legco meeting to the question of pro-establishment lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king, who asked if the series of incidents showed a problem in the city’s education system.
Yeung said data obtained from the Education Bureau showed that, since 2014, there have been 11 incidents of demonstrations on campus by university students that developed into confrontations, resulting in a total of 14 members of teaching staff and two others being wounded.
But Yeung said it wasn’t from their schooling that the youngsters learned such behaviour.
“People see youngsters manifesting certain improper behaviours and they think there’s something wrong with the education system, but I can certainly say that they’re not taught to do these things,” Yeung said.
“Where did they learn it? We’ve seen media reports of insults and the Occupy movement or even from inside this chamber. You can imagine how it looks when you can see them happening from TV.”
He admitted that something needed to be done in the education system to instil positive messages and values in students via after-school activities and other such measures.
The clashes included the protest by 200 students who besieged a University of Hong Kong governing council meeting in 2016, trapping council members inside, including Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, for hours.
Police officers with batons and pepper spray were deployed at the scene.
The chaos erupted after students demanded a restructuring of the council so that the chief executive would no longer be the default chancellor of HKU.
In another incident earlier this year, about 30 Baptist University students staged an eight-hour stand-off at the school’s language centre after dissatisfaction about the school’s requirement that all students must pass a Mandarin exam to graduate.
The students were filmed hurling vulgarities at staff, drawing severe criticism from both on and off campus.
The Education Bureau said that the police would generally not intervene in such emergency incidents and would only enter campuses upon the school’s request.
Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin said Yeung’s argument was misdirected, and showed the government had not reflected on political deadlock since the Occupy movement and on long-standing social inequality.
“It would be naive for Yeung to put the blame only on the Occupy movement,” said Wan. “University students were only taking part because of their conscience and passion for society.”
Wholesale and retail lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai suggested that, to better protect the safety of on-campus staff, students’ conduct should be noted on their transcripts. This would ensure elders and teachers at universities are respected and students do not throw insults at them.
The secretary said the decision to do so should be up to individual institutions but that he would forward the recommendations to the different universities.
Baptist University’s student union acting executive committee vice-president Mak Kwan-wai said Yeung’s comments that students had learned “improper behaviour” from the Occupy movement and clashes in Legco were “groundless”.
“It’s strange to say that because every student has their own independent thinking,” he said.
Davin Wong, student union president at the University of Hong Kong, said he did not think Occupy movement and conflicts inside the legislative chamber were related to students’ behaviour on campus.
“I can’t understand why Yeung made such a claim,” Wong said.
He said university students just wanted to manage the school with their teachers to make it a better place.
He also rejected suggestions to mark students’ conducts on their transcripts, adding that university education promotes freedom and that means allowing students to do what they want and be responsible for what they do.
Additional reporting by Alvin Lum and Kanis Leung