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Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 08:44

Former education chief opposes student strikes

By Joseph Li in Hong Kong
Former education chief opposes student strikes
Executive Councilor and former education secretary Arthur Li Kwok-cheung believes most parents oppose the class boycotts at secondary schools. (Provided to China Daily)

Executive Councilor and former education secretary Arthur Li Kwok-cheung opposes the on-going student strike and said he is appalled that people are bringing politics into schools.

Li made this point in an exclusive interview with China Daily as university students began a week-long boycott on Monday, and held a rally on the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). A few secondary students are also planning to boycott classes on Friday.

Li, who has also served as vice-chancellor of CUHK, said university students were older and could make their own decisions. But he advised that they should bear the consequences of their actions and not interfere with, or insult non-boycotting teachers and students.

At secondary schools, different schools would handle the class boycotts in different ways, he added.

Li believes most parents oppose the class boycotts. Yet he lamented the fact that some principals and teachers did not openly oppose such actions for fear they would be attacked for their opinions. The former education secretary said such a situation was not good for Hong Kong.

Former education chief opposes student strikes“It is totally unacceptable for secondary students to boycott classes. Secondary students should not be absent from school without good reasons such as illness,” he said. “Their responsibility is to study well and live up to the aspirations of teachers and parents. Politics and class boycotts are not their responsibilities or priorities.” 

Earlier, Li had attracted controversy by telling boycotting university students to drop out from school. Li on Monday said he had not been urging students to drop out, but had only used this as an example. But if they believed it was a big sacrifice to boycott classes, Li felt it would be a bigger sacrifice to drop out and give associate degree students the opportunity to go to universities, given that tertiary education is heavily subsidized by the taxpayers.

In addition to the student strike, Li also spoke in opposition to “Occupy Central”, saying such radical actions could not force the central government to change its decision.

Li believes it is a sign of considerable progress that 5 million eligible voters will be able to elect the next Chief Executive (CE) in 2017.

While the National People’s Congress Standing Committee has provided an electoral framework, Li thinks there is still room for discussion as to the composition of the Nominating Committee (NC) at the local legislation stage. For example, corporate votes in certain subsectors may be changed to individual votes to broaden the voter base, while new subsectors for women and young people can be opened.

Li said: “People must look fairly, not emotionally, whether it is more democratic for 5 million than 1,200 people to choose the CE. If you don’t like the two or three candidates, you can cast blank votes.

“There is no such thing as an international standard. Since the United States, Britain, France, and Germany have different standards, why can’t Hong Kong as a special administrative region have its own standard?”

He suspected a small minority of people want to use the political reforms as a means of attacking the central government. Some were also misled — thinking that rallies against the central government were heroic acts.

Two of the three “Occupy” organizers are teaching in universities. They have vowed to paralyze the Central financial district in an attempt to force the central government to change its decision.

“University professors are more learned people. Yet, what they do only shows they are either childish or they have their own agendas,” Li said.


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