Thursday, May 15, 2014, 09:04
Ng opposes students joining ‘Occupy’ protests
By By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim — echoing concerns of pressure group “Silent Majority for Hong Kong” — urged teachers and parents not to let children participate in unlawful protests planned by organizers of the “Occupy Central” campaign.

Ng’s appeal was read from a prepared statement at the sidelines of an event on Wednesday. It was made just after the “Silent Majority” voiced its concerns that students might be “recruited” by politically biased teachers to boost the numbers of the “Occupy” rally.

The “Occupy” supporters have vowed to rally indefinitely in Central to force the government to accept their political agenda. Eddie Ng said it was “impossible” for participants of such a prolonged campaign not to commit an offense.

Ng stressed that teachers should always be law-abiding. He warned that their careers could be jeopardized if they were convicted.

Students would not only face hazards to their safety during “Occupy” rallies, they could also be charged with crimes. He said a crime record would hurt their future education and work prospects.

The education secretary also said it was understandable people feared school children were vulnerable to exploitation by political groups. He said children were not mature enough to make informed judgments on such issues.

Teacher unions, regardless of their political viewpoints, agreed that political advocacy should not occur in classrooms. But they also said there was no “forbidden zone” if the topics are discussed without bias and for the purpose of education.

Wong Kwan-yu, chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, said teachers should explain why “civil nomination”, as advocated by the “Occupy” campaign, had been rejected by legal experts for contravening the Basic Law.

Wong also said discussions on “Occupy Central” should not be forbidden in classrooms. But he said teachers needed to explain the issues in full — including the legality of the campaign and its planned blockade in Central.

“The conclusion of this discussion would be self-evident,” he noted.

Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union President Fung Wai-wah said teachers had a responsibility to ensure classrooms were free from political advocacy, brainwashing or mobilization for political campaigns.

Fung agreed that discussions on the “Occupy” campaign must only be for educational purposes. He said teachers should always uphold the principle of impartiality. They should refrain from influencing the students’ views through a hidden agenda.