Hong Kong teacher loses registration for reportedly spreading pro-independence materials in class

  • The teacher asked the class to answer questions about freedom of speech after watching a programme featuring pro-democracy activist Chan Ho-tin
  • The Education Bureau said his actions violate the city's Basic Law, while the Professional Teachers Union said it would help the individual appeal the ruling
South China Morning Post |
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While the Education Bureau did not reveal the name of the teacher in question, a source said he worked at the Alliance Primary School in Kowloon Tong. Photo: SCMP

Hong Kong's education bureau announced on Monday that a primary school teacher has been stripped of his teaching registration for reportedly spreading pro-independence messages via the materials used in the classroom.

The school’s headmaster and a deputy were also reprimanded for lax supervision, according to the Education Bureau.

It marks the first instance of a teacher being disqualified for introducing Hong Kong independence ideas in class, something the bureau said violated the Basic Law and the city’s constitutional status.

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The Professional Teachers Union has said it would assist the teacher in filing an appeal.

In a Monday statement, the bureau said: “It could not have simply been an oversight that the teacher spread the message about Hong Kong independence. Because a teacher would need to make an effort to design his teaching materials or worksheets and teaching programmes.”

It also said the content of the teaching materials used was twisted and biased, and had done major harm to students.

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“Even from the education perspective, the depth of the materials was not suitable for primary school students. In order to protect students’ interest and safeguard teachers’ professionalism and public trust in the teaching profession, the Education Bureau decided to cancel the teacher’s registration,” the statement read.

All teachers working in Hong Kong schools must be registered with the Education Bureau. 

While the bureau did not identify the teacher in its statement, a source said the educator in question worked at the Alliance Primary School in Kowloon Tong. 

An Education Bureau statement on Monday revealed that a Hong Kong teacher had been stripped of their registration for spreading ‘independence’ messages in the classroom. Photo: ISD

The teacher allegedly asked students to answer questions about Hong Kong independence and freedom of speech after showing them a TV programme featuring pro-independence activist Chan Ho-tin.

The bureau vowed to press ahead in finding other “black sheep” teachers suspected of professional misconduct.

Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers chairman and primary school principal Wong Kam-leung said disqualification would be appropriate if the bureau’s claim that the teacher advocated independence were true.

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It was not just a matter of speech, but actions, Wong said, if the teacher inserted the independence discussion into teaching material and worksheets.

“This is a violation of professional conduct, and would hurt the students. I believe that no parents would accept this.”

Several teachers at the school in question were warned by the bureau over the incident, according to Wong, who suggested the bureau disclose more details to avoid a chilling effect among educators.

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He noted that disqualifying a teacher on grounds not related to criminal convictions was rare.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, meanwhile, said the conclusions drawn by the bureau were “totally unreasonable”, and that it had ignored the teacher’s attempt to explain the teaching materials. 

“The case could bring a chilling effect, as other personnel in the school were also involved,” Ip said.

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