Hong Kong teacher loses job for asking students 'what is freedom of speech?'

Large teachers union calls decision ‘totally unacceptable’

Rory Sullivan
Tuesday 06 October 2020 13:42 BST
Hong Kong police bundle pro-independent activists into a van
Hong Kong police bundle pro-independent activists into a van

A primary school teacher in Hong Kong has been dismissed for allegedly asking pupils questions about freedom of speech and independence from China.

In a statement released on Monday, the Education Bureau claimed the unnamed teacher had violated the territory’s de facto constitution, the Basic Law, by disseminating a message about independence.

The bureau added that it had chosen to remove the teacher’s registration in order to “protect students’ interest and safeguard teachers’ professionalism and public trust in the teaching profession”.

The teacher was reportedly sacked for showing students a video featuring a pro-independence activist, and then asked the class “what is freedom of speech?”, and “according to the video, what is the reason for advocating Hong Kong independence?”

As teachers working in Hong Kong schools have to be registered with the Education Bureau, the person in question will now no longer be able to teach in the territory, according to the South China Morning Post.

In a Facebook post, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union called the decision to remove the teacher from their post as “totally unacceptable” and said the written warning sent to the school where they taught constituted a “despicable act” of intimidation.

The union added that it would help the teacher with their appeal.

Speaking about the decision, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said on Tuesday that it was a “very serious matter” if teachers took aim at China and the Hong Kong government.

Using similar language, the Education Bureau also warned on Monday that it would be looking out for other “black sheep”, adding that it had received 247 allegations of professional misconduct aimed at teachers between July 2019 and August this year. 

These warnings come three months after a controversial new security law was imposed on Hong Kong, which critics fear will erode freedom in the territory.

After condemning the new legislation, countries including the UK, Canada and Australia decided to suspend their extradition treaties with Hong Kong.

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