Hong Kong Basic Law

Hong Kong secondary school pupils left scratching their heads after Li Fei’s Basic Law speech

Live broadcast of 50-minute Mandarin presentation by the chairman of the Basic Law Committee was shown at 50 schools in the city on Thursday

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 6:58pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 November, 2017, 10:19am

For 120 secondary school pupils at Lions College, the live broadcast of Li Fei’s speech on Thursday inspired a mix of yawns, drowsiness and head-scratching.

The school’s principal admitted there had been a language barrier for pupils listening to the 50-minute speech on the Basic Law made in Mandarin by the chairman of the Basic Law Committee, but stressed the event was a valuable experience.

The school in Kwai Chung was one of 50 that accepted the Education Bureau’s invitation to stream the broadcast in an attempt to deepen students’ understanding of the city’s mini-constitution.

A radical political group, People Power, staged protests outside three schools and handed out red cloths to pupils “to blindfold their eyes” as a gesture to show they refused to watch the speech.

But the protests were dismissed by the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers as being rude and unreasonable. It said it was the responsibility of eductors to teach youngsters about the history and culture of China.

“Since the speech was rather long and made in Mandarin, there might be a language barrier,” said Lions College’s principal Lam Yat-fung. “It is not surprising a few students lost their focus as they are young and their attention span may not be long.

“Still, it is valuable to experience a seminar on such a large scale.

“I am sure students might respond better in other activities, such as a visit or outing, but this is a learning process and we are trying to arrange a different chance for them.”

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A student representative, assigned by the school to speak to the press, said he found the activity helpful for his studies but language remained an issue.

“Since it was in Mandarin, I could not fully understand it,” Jacky Chan, in Form Five, said. “The event was quite good as it fits the subject we are studying. It was helpful as Li Fei explained the purpose and meaning of the Basic Law, and I listened to it intently.

“Personally I am against the Hong Kong pro-independence movement as I do not think it is workable, so I agree with what Li Fei said.”

Another student representative said she was more confused after Li’s speech.

“He said that Basic Law is secondary to China’s constitution law, so I am now a bit confused about the purpose and status of having it in Hong Kong in the first place,” Stacey Lau, who is in Form Six, said. She said she could only understand about 70 per cent of what Li said.

Before the speech, the pupils gathered in an assembly hall at 9.30am for the additional class that began with a 30-minute briefing by a liberal studies teacher about the background of the Basic Law.

Ten minutes into the speech, some of the blank-faced pupils began to rub their faces, scratch their heads, and yawn, despite the presence of the cameras. Only a few were seen jotting notes, but no one dared to chat among themselves.

A few closed their eyes, appearing to be dozing off, only to be elbowed awake by neighbouring pupils.

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The teacher gave out worksheets after the speech, with questions about how the Basic Law contributes to the prosperity of Hong Kong, its relationship with China’s law and so on. Principal Lam promised to pass their questions to Li if the pupils had any doubts about his remarks.

Education sector lawmaker, Ip Kin-yuen, the only pan democrat lawmaker at the seminar, said Li’s speech was too difficult for secondary school students to understand.

“After Li finished, I told him I disagreed with having his speech broadcasted … Even Li said it was difficult for him to take care of both students and the people at the scene, who knew more about the matter than students,” Ip said.