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The winds and the clouds are changing their colours

Sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s political landscape

Dear Members,

‘A foreboding feeling’ – the title of last month’s email – proved, unfortunately, prophetic. At the time of writing this letter, the winds and the clouds outside are changing their colours; the rain is pouring down and thunder is rumbling: a particularly apt reflection of the situation in Hong Kong. The National People's Congress announced the establishment of ‘national security legislation’ for Hong Kong with a distinct possibility of an executive agency responsible for national security being set up in Hong Kong. When the news broke, people in Hong Kong were shocked and worried and Hong Kong’s stock market plunged by more than one thousand points. ‘One Country, two Systems’ is on the verge of collapse and many people are talking about emigration as a fallback.

The frontline of education is also full of gunpower smoke. We could not have imagined that such a low-key statutory institution as the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) has come under ruthless attack and it is the Education Bureau (EDB) that takes the lead in the attack. EDB has no qualms about distorting a question in an examination paper of the HKDSE and imposing on the HKEAA the verdict of ‘seriously hurting the feelings and dignity of the Chinese people who suffered great pain during the Japanese invasion of China’, so as to establish a foothold in the intervention of HKDSE examination questions. EDB has even asked HKEAA to invalidate the question concerned at the expense of the well-being of candidates. Our consultation with several experts and teachers reveals that what EDB said was not consistent with the fact. According to the requirement of the question, candidates had to answer it according to the historical facts of Japanese invasion of China, otherwise they would not get high scores. As it was facts that candidates were asked to provide, how can the examination question be condemned as ‘beautifying the crime of Japan’s invasion of China’?

Apart from subjecting HKEAA to an ‘unwarranted charge’, EDB has stealthily stepped up the persecution of teachers. A large majority of the 192 cases – complaining about possible professional misconduct of teachers in social incidents – centre, as we all know, on nothing but teachers expressing their personal views on social platforms such as the Facebook, and most of the complaints were anonymous. Not only does EDB, in violation of the principle set by itself, accept these anonymous complaints, it also criminalizes utterances of opinions. So far, 54 teachers have been issued with reprimands, warnings, words of advice or reminds. Recently, EDB has stealthily modified an existing notice and made it necessary for teachers, when seeking a new teaching post, to disclose details of investigations conducted against them, otherwise they may face criminal proceedings! Such an approach opens the way for EDB not only to criminalize utterances of opinions, but also to adversely affect the future of teachers with such criminalization. The requirement that even complaints under investigation need to be disclosed runs counter to the common law principle of the presumption of innocence. This is unacceptable, and we will definitely lodge a strong protest to EDB!

My dear fellow workers in education, the current situation in Hong Kong is such that one can hardly be optimistic. Despite this, we cannot give up. There may be individual teachers who choose to emigrate from Hong Kong, but a large number of students will certainly remain on this piece of land. They need to be nurtured with good education, honesty, care, moral courage so that they can become righteous and responsible citizens when they grow up. For our hope in the future, we must – until the very last moment – stay united and strive to protect all that we cherish.

Here is a piece of advice to my education colleagues: at a time when the winds are high and the waves turbulent, let’s maintain our composure and calm; let’s steadfastly hold on to our principles; and let’s exercise extra caution. Utterances with strong emotions are most easily pounced upon by those seeking to do so and deployed as ‘evidence of crime’. Notwithstanding this, we should continue to be committed to our conviction, to our professionalism and to our conscience of education. We should strive to teach our students what they ought to learn. We must not – simply because of being excessively cautious – impose censorship on ourselves and shy away from our students. We should stay united and, when appropriate opportunities arise, speak out and strive for what is right.

With class resumption coming up, I hope that every one of us will continue to be steadfast in our professionalism, conscientiously carry out our duties and urge our students to stay away from scenes of conflict and not to get injured. Today is the day when schools resume senior secondary classes; it is also the day when the National Anthem Bill will be submitted to the Legislative Council for second reading. We hope that the resumption of classes will bring us back to the normal track of education. However, the overall atmosphere of opposition and strife in society will exert their impact on us time and again. 2020 is destined to be a historic year for Hong Kong. May we all have a peaceful year.

The winds and the clouds are changing their colours
Writing to HKEAA’s Council on the controversy over a HKDSE History question: + HKPTU’s survey results Strongly urging Carrie LAM to retract her irresponsible remark and apologize to teachers
Raising objections to police hindering students from conducting normal interviews + Urging minors to stay away from scenes of conflict Snapshots Speeches

Writing to HKEAA’s Council on the controversy over a HKDSE History question: + HKPTU’s survey results

In connection with the controversy arising from a question in History Paper 1 of this year’s HKDSE Examination, EDB – prior to fully listening to professional views – at once proceeded to pronounce that the question ‘is hurting national feelings’ and constitutes ‘professional fault’. EDB also took the unprecedented step of asking HKEAA to invalidate the question.

The HKEAA Council convened a meeting on 18 May to discuss EDB’s request to invalidate the question. I had earlier on written to HKEAA’s Council asking that the Council – without yielding to external pressure – continue to adhere to professionalism and strictly abide by relevant procedures.

In order to reflect the voice of frontline professionals, HKPTU conducted an email questionnaire survey inviting history teachers of secondary schools to express their views on the question in the examination paper. Within a short span of 15 hours, replies bearing respondents’ real names were received from as many as 268 teachers, who accounted for about 26.6% of all history teachers in Hong Kong’s secondary schools.

The survey results show that 97% of the history teachers are opposed to the invalidation of the examination question. This is an abundantly clear reflection of the views of frontline fellow workers. HKPTU hopes that all decision makers will consider the matter seriously and come up with a decision which is consistent with professionalism and protects the well-being of students. I have asked that this matter be discussed at a meeting of the Panel on Education and will raise objection to the brutal invalidation of the question.

Strongly urging Carrie LAM to retract her irresponsible remark and apologize to teachers

‘Hong Kong’s education cannot be a chicken coop without a cover’ – a remark made by Carrie LAM at an interview with Ta Kung Pao earlier on – is insulting to the education sector. Why did she, as the Chief Executive, make such a remark? I strongly urge LAM to retract her irresponsible remark and apologize to teachers.

The year-long conflict between the police and the people stems, in the final analysis, from ‘the Government’s refusal to listen to public opinion’ and ‘police brutality’. Failing to deal with the core of the problem, the Government puts the blame on the education sector. This is a case of the Government shirking its responsibility and making the education sector a scapegoat for the conflict between the police and the people.

On the course of Liberal Studies, Carrie LAM indicated that she would make an elaboration. In this connection, I would strongly reiterate that when setting up the committee to review curriculum development, the Government had clearly stated that the committee should be ‘led by professionalism’, i.e. deploying professional personnel and using professional standards and professional methods to review curriculum development, including the status and approach of Liberal Studies. On what basis can LAM now say that there are problems in Liberal Studies or other subjects? What worries me is that our education could develop into one that ‘shackles thinking’. I would urge teachers to be steadfast in their posts, not to get dispirited in the face of difficulties, and, with our educational conscience, to train students to be independent thinkers.

Raising objections to police hindering students from conducting normal interviews + Urging minors to stay away from scenes of conflict

While carrying out journalistic work in shopping malls on Mother’s Day, some students at a tender age were arrested by the police, including a 13-year-old secondary school student, even though he was simply doing an interview and recording what was happening. Doing journalistic work or attempting to carry out interviews could well be extracurricular activities of secondary school students or their attempts to intervene in social problems and arouse their interest in learning.

As there is nothing wrong with such behaviour, it was puzzling that they were arrested and brought to a police station. Arresting students at a tender age – instead of protecting them and ensuring their safety – is clearly in violation of the spirit of Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I feel a deep sense of revulsion against such an approach of the police. I hope that the police will be kind to our children.

However, I would also like to remind our citizens that there are risks at scenes of conflict between the police and the public. For the sake of safety, we strongly urge students who are minors to stay away from scenes of conflict. I also hope that teachers and parents will offer similar advice to minors.

Expressing concern over arrangements arising from Government’s intention to designate the day following a polling day as a school holiday

The Government intends to designate the day following a polling day as a school holiday. This will, I believe, provide more flexibility in the use of school premises. The Government has, however, not yet announced details. As it is understood that schools will shortly prepare their September calendar of the next school year, I hope that the Government will soon provide detailed information so as to enable schools and teachers concerned to better prepare their school calendars.

Under Secretary for Constitutional & Mainland Affairs CHAN Shui-fu, also stated earlier on that this was his Bureau’s work objective and that the Bureau was in the process of discussing arrangements with the education sector.

Reflecting the education sector’s opinion on the resumption of classes

In connection with EDB’s earlier announcement that classes could resume in stages starting from 27 May, we sought the views of principals and headmasters of subsidized secondary schools and primary schools as well as special schools on the arrangements for class resumption.

After collating the views of the education sector, I reflected the sector’s views to EDB and asked that EDB provide, soonest possible, clear and concrete guidelines on class resumption and answer questions relating to epidemic prevention measures, so that schools know exactly what to do.

The following is a link to enquires and views of individual principals and headmasters of secondary schools, primary schools and special schools. (We will, at a later stage, consult kindergartens and child care centres.)

Chinese history textbook assailed politically

Responding earlier on to a screenshot in a Chinese history textbook circulating on the Internet, I analyzed the misleading aspects of it, but the report eventually omitted all my analysis and only quoted my comment that the design of that textbook can inspire thinking.

Subsequently adding their own interpretations, some online media changed it into ‘Chinese history textbook mentions LIN Zexu imposing a ban on smoking leading to British scholars criticizing LIN’s action as impetuous resulting in the outbreak of a war. IP Kin-yuen considers this to be inspiring thinking’ and launched a punitive campaign against me.

The truth is that ‘the person with some ulterior motive’ who designed the screenshot deliberately omitted the few pages of historical facts preceding it. Taking only one page is enough to mislead the world into thinking that the textbook author was trying to inculcate British views in Hong Kong students! This kind of ‘taking a part for the whole’ or distorting and smearing practice occurs from time to time and misleads Hong Kong people into thinking that the teaching of Chinese History is rife with problems, and thus drawing the conclusion that the evil influence of Hong Kong’s colonial education keeps lingering on.

Expressing concern over the expansion project of Hong Chi Tuen Mun Morninghill School

Hong Chi Tuen Mun Morninghill School has been sharing the same premises with another school. Now the Government has an expansion plan: to build a 3-storey block as a new wing to the existing structure. In other words, there will be a change from ‘one premises, two schools’ to ‘one school, two premises’. The existing structure and the new block will be separated by a road.

In response to my concern over facilities for students to cross the road, EDB indicates that following an on-site inspection, which shows that the volume of traffic is relatively light, and after discussions with the school, the Transport Department and the Architectural Services Department, it has been considered that the road will not pose a safety problem to parents and students and that it will also provide an opportunity for the school to teach road safety to its students.

However, the document provided by EDB is, I must say, quite sketchy, failing to provide, for example, such basic information as the number of classes and the number of students. I hope that improvements will be made in Government’s subsequent submissions to the Public Works Subcommittee.

14 May 2020 Legislative Council Meeting
Education sacrificed, the Police Force favoured, Budget 2020 to be opposed.

8 May 2020 Panel on Education
Concern over Government’s supervision of the operations of international schools

4 May 2020 Special meeting of the Panel on Public Service
Is the Government subjugating ‘political neutrality’ to ‘civil service loyalty’?

Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen
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