Hong Kong courts

Disqualified teacher faces two years in jail after being found guilty of setting foot on primary school premises in Hong Kong after being barred from doing so

  • Cheung Kam-fai, 44, continued to work in school office despite earlier having had his teaching registration cancelled
  • Any disqualified teacher needs written permission from permanent secretary for education to enter any school premises
PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2018, 9:16pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2018, 8:23am

A former assistant at a scandal-hit Hong Kong primary school was found guilty on Friday of entering the premises despite being barred from doing so.

Tuen Mun Court found that Cheung Kam-fai, 44, continued to work as the then principal’s right-hand man in the office of Hing Tak School between March 30 and April 11 last year, even though he was banned from even setting foot on the premises.

Cheung, who worked strictly on administrative matters, was a primary school teacher by profession until his teaching registration was revoked for reasons not specified during the trial.

Under Hong Kong law, any teacher disqualified from the profession can no longer set foot in a school without written permission from the permanent secretary for education.

On Friday, Magistrate Jacky Ip Kai-leung convicted Cheung of 10 counts of remaining in a school without permission.

“At the material time, you were aware that you had effectively been stripped of your teaching qualification,” Ip said.

Cheung had argued that the disqualification was invalid.

Hing Tak school teacher barred from troubled school

The government-subsidised school in Tuen Mun was engulfed in controversy in 2017 when it was revealed that more than 20 pupils were absent for up to two years, but had remained on the roster.

During Cheung’s trial, which was heard in July, teachers recalled how the office became shrouded in secrecy after he rejoined the school as the principal’s assistant in 2016, following a short stint the year before. One teacher testified that he felt like a “prisoner” whenever he went in. He recalled being told off for looking at papers on a table.

Dismissed principal Chan Cheung-ping, who treated Cheung as her right-hand man, is facing a charge of using false documents in a separate trial.

The court heard that after joining the school in 2016, Cheung learned in February the following year that his registration had been cancelled. Although the court was not told why that happened, the defendant had a conviction in 2014 arising from an assault.

In April 2017, the school applied to the Education Bureau to continue to hire Cheung. But officials who testified in court said they turned down the request, meaning that Cheung could no longer remain at the school.

Cheung argued during the trial that such an offence had infringed on his rights, rendering it unconstitutional. His son attended the school, he argued, and he would not be able to see his teacher because of such a law.

Sacked principal’s HK$350,000 claim put off in view of criminal case

But the magistrate rejected his claims, ruling the law constitutional.

Cheung’s barrister Anthony Lai said his client’s ignorance caused him to commit the “rare offence”.

Teachers and a bureau official all said in an array of mitigation letters that they had not heard of such a crime.

The offence is punishable by a HK$100,000 (US$12,820) fine and two years’ imprisonment, under the Education Ordinance.

Ip sought a community service order report on Cheung after warning of the serious nature of the offence. He adjourned sentencing to December 20.