The Secretary for Education has dismissed accusations that he chose to play with his smartphone, rather than receiving letters from students protesting outside his car on Saturday.
Eddie Ng Hak-kim says he was working as students surrounded his car for 45 minutes. Ng had been officiating at a ceremony at Queen Elizabeth School Old Students’ Association Tong Kwok Wah Secondary School in Tin Shui Wai.
Around 100 students were at the scene urging Ng to step out of his car and receive a letter signed by some 300 students, expressing concerns about the education system. The letter touched on the controversial TSA tests, the teaching Chinese in Mandarin, the teaching of simplified Chinese characters and the recent spate of student suicides.
“I was using my phone to communicate with my colleagues and handle my work, it is necessary for my daily work, I hope the public can understand,” Ng said.
He added he was worried that “school issues are being politicised and students will be affected, [and are] even being used.” He compared the protest with recent protests by lawmakers at the Legislative Council, that students may “copy” such actions.
However, Cheng Sze-lut, an alumni and one of the protesters, suggested that Ng was the one who brought politics into schools.
“He talked about going to Dongguan [to study], and the Belt and Road initiative at our school’s anniversary ceremony,” the Labour Party member told Apple Daily.
Cheng added that Ng’s explanation did not help clearing the accusations that he did not want to communicate with students.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen also criticised Ng’s actions.
“His actions were bad, he is unfit for the job, he is failing as an education minister,” Ip told Apple Daily.
During the protest, a student was seen wearing a t-shirt of political group Civic Passion, prompting concerns of political interference. The student wrote on social media later that he was only a supporter of the group, but was never a member, and the protest was not supported by any political group.