While in Hong Kong to promote his latest book last month, Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten could not resist getting involved in the hotly debated issue surrounding the three young activists, who were given custodial sentences. Patten described Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung’s appeal to the Court of Appeal as a “political” act. The former governor obviously disregarded the vital role Hong Kong courts have in trying to deter violent and disruptive behavior. Patten even went on to write an article for the Financial Times, suggesting that the imprisonment of the trio was “persecution”. He also said the Hong Kong government’s decision to appeal against the initial, non-custodial sentences was “deplorable”.
But it’s not the illogical opinions of politicians like Patten that should concern us. What is far more worrying are the warped mindsets of those with direct influence on our young people: Politically motivated teachers. Three years ago, during the illegal “Occupy Central” movement, students from secondary and tertiary institutions missed school to go to sit-in protests. Dozens of teachers were present to offer tutorials which the students missed at school. On the surface, this looked like a selfless act. But one must ask this question: Is the teacher’s duty to educate — or is it to incite illegal political activism?
Then there is the case of William Cheung Sing-wai, chairman of University of Hong Kong Academic Staff Association. He blamed the school for the students’ infamous siege of an HKU Council meeting in January 2016. Cheung suggested that it was the difficulties in communicating with the school that caused the students’ violent and disruptive behavior. He also said it was unacceptable for the school to call the police and for managerial staff to testify against the students. Cheung’s statements are flawed in terms of both logic and common sense because in the face of such chaos, any responsible law-abiding citizen has an obligation to call police to restore law and order. With troublemakers taking over HKU, it was only sensible for the school to do this. If the police were not called, they would nonetheless have learnt about the incident once injured people started arriving at hospitals. In defending the students, Cheung discussed only the motive, not the means behind their actions. The truth is that regardless of motives, unlawful means will still lead to criminal acts. In their formative years, our young people need to be taught the right code of conduct. They must have the ability to tell right from wrong. By preventing students from being punished for illegal and unacceptable behavior, Cheung is sowing the seeds for the young to become involved in even more wicked conduct in future. One assumes Cheung, as an educator, can foresee the negative consequences of such an indulgent approach. Or is he among those pseudo-academics who are just using the students as political pawns?
What is disheartening today is that our educators seem largely unaware of their influence on our youth. From time immemorial, the teacher has always had an important responsibility to help children grow into literate, moral, civic, obedient, and socially acceptable adults. Yet in modern Hong Kong there are too many people like the teachers involved in the “Occupy” protests and William Cheung. They have instilled the wrong values in young people. One can’t help wonder whether they also propagate unconstitutional and immoral ideologies in their classrooms. Even if these teachers influence just 1 percent of the 830,000 secondary pupils in the city, they would have distorted the minds of 8,300 young people.
As a doctor I am aware of a decisive factor called the “environment”. It doesn’t matter how much health education is available, people’s health or the health system will still deteriorate without the right factors. These include the acknowledgement and presence of a hygienic environment and the relevant facilities and infrastructures. In regard to Hong Kong’s young people, the current environment is worrying because there is misinformation from irresponsible educators and politicians. This is not a promising environment for producing future adults with the right morals and ethics. At critical times like this, when our young people and society need even more moral guidance, let us hope that those behind the “Occupy” movement receive the appropriate sentence. Therefore, let justice be served — like it was for the three young activists who went to prison.
The author is president of Wisdom Hong Kong, a local think tank.