Hong Kong education minister pelted with bloody exam papers after wave of student suicides

Twenty-two young people have killed themselves in Hong Kong since the start of the academic year

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The Independent Online

A spate of student suicides in Hong Kong has sparked angry protests over what is seen as a highly-stressful exam system - with politicians using gory ‘blood-stained’ props to make their point.

Hong Kong’s education minister was pelted with exam papers splattered with fake blood on Wednesday as he left a government meeting held to discuss the suicides.

Angry politicians who had been in the chamber with the education chief Eddie Ng followed him outside, shouting accusations and calling him a “heartless minister”, the South China Morning Post reported.

Twenty-two young people have killed themselves in Hong Kong since the start of the academic year, with the four most recent deaths taking place over five days. The youngest was 11-years-old.

Between 2010-2014, 23 young people took their own lives each year, and this year’s increase has alarmed parents and the government alike.

During the morning’s session, Ng was quizzed by lawmakers on the possible links between these tragedies and Hong Kong’s notoriously tough school system.

“With the increased numbers of suicides among students, have you ever looked into whether it has anything to do with your new secondary school system, with the school-based assessment and coursework?” asked lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee in the meeting, according to the South China Morning Post.

The exam papers doused in ‘blood’ thrown by three ministers after the meeting was a standard assessment for primary-school pupils, a test often prepared for with repetitive drills which has been criticised by parents as a source of stress.

The education minister responded to the protest in a social media post, calling it “unnecessary” and pointing out that the fake blood could cause real distress to students. He said that suicide was a complicated matter and that students in fact had fewer public exams than before.

40 per cent of students in Hong Kong say they feel anxious at the start of a new term, according to a recent poll by the Hong Kong-based Federation of Youth Groups.

In the UK, rising numbers of university students are seeking counselling, according to a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which found that mental health problems on campus had increased from around 8,000 to 18,000 in four years to 2012-3.