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Tuesday, August 16, 2016, 00:35

Concern voiced about advocacy of separatism in schools

By Li Yinze and Willa Wu

HONG KONG – Secondary schools should not tolerate any advocacy of “Hong Kong independence” on campus, a social concern group said on Monday.

The group is defying a potential threat posed by localists to influence teenagers and spread radical ideas among student groups.

A spokesman for the concern group Real Hong Konger’s View, Frederick Lau, said secondary school students were still immature and could be easily influenced by radical ideology. He urged teachers’ unions to stand firm against localist groups advocating “Hong Kong independence” in secondary schools.

"Even for university students, discussions should be carefully conducted with full awareness of the Basic Law and respect of the indisputable fact that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China," Lau said.

The group has sent an open letter to Vice-President of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) Cheung Yui-fai. It said advocating “Hong Kong independence” in schools will undermine Hong Kong’s political and economic stability and divide society.

In a reply, the HKPTU said it doesn't approve of teachers advocating “independence” ideas. It urged teachers to be professional and objective during their discussions with students on controversial issues.

Last week, Cheung argued that educational institutions should not put “restrictions” on students engaging in academic discussions.

Cheung was commenting on a 60-member group called “Studentlocalism”. It appealed on its Facebook page to all secondary school students to establish “localist organizations" on campus.

Lau suggested the Basic Law education be included in the curriculum to help more students learn about the SAR's status.

Political leaders and experts urged the public to remain vigilant about separatist ideas. They said that even those advocating independence themselves know their opinions are rejected by most people in Hong Kong.

Former head of the Central Policy Unit and incumbent member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee Lau Siu-kai told China Daily it was impossible for “independence” or “self-determination” to become widely accepted. The localists were well aware of this, he added.

“The pro-independence activists can’t win support from adults. Their campaign therefore shifts to secondary schools,” Lau said.

However, advocating such ideas is still dangerous because young people are more impressionable, he argued.

He believed those who advocate the “independence” of the city are completely irresponsible. They were ignoring the future of the SAR and the country.

Lau urged the government and school councils to prevent potential national security risks caused by the separatist advocacy. Radical teachers could be punished in accordance with the law if they advocate “Hong Kong independence” in classes.

Parents should also pay great attention to children’s views if they sympathize with such ideas, he added.

Lim Cher-ping, professor of Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the Education University of Hong Kong, said the education sector should try to provide better platforms for young people from the mainland and Hong Kong to improve communication.

“Young people from across the border will find they share similar cultural backgrounds and values through student exchange programs, for example,” Lim said. He added that an “education-oriented approach is recommended when addressing such issues. Teachers should play an important role in leading them to the right path.”

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