Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said that Hong Kong independence is not a matter of freedom of speech, and teachers have a responsibility to guide students’ discussion of the issue in the correct direction.

His remarks came after the Education Bureau’s warning that teachers may lose their professional qualifications if they advocate independence in schools.

Speaking ahead of the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Leung said the development of independence thinking in Hong Kong will harm the city’s youth, its stability, and the relationship between the mainland, Hong Kong and the central government.

Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

“As in the discussion of other issues, teachers and schools need to have a sense of right and wrong, and a stance of right and wrong to guide students in discussing it,” he said. “For instance, on students’ views on family, society and law, we would not allow students to organise themselves to break the law, to break the school’s rules, to hurt their own lives and bodies.”

“It is not a matter of freedom of speech – we need to have a stance of right and wrong. Schools have the responsibility to guide students to discuss the issue in a direction that is correct.”

Reporters asked Leung about some students who formed independence concern groups in schools because he piqued their interest in the issue. Last year, Leung criticised a story about self-determination published by the University of Hong Kong’s student magazine in his 2015 policy address.

Leung Chun-ying at an event fighting drug abuse. Photo: GovHK.

In response to the question, Leung gave another example of the government taking a stance on an issue – fighting drug abuse. He said he often participated in events opposing drug abuse.

“It cannot be said that since the Chief Executive or other officials have a clear stance on the issue, it is then the government or the Chief Executive’s fault if some Hong Kong students take drugs.”

Speaking on Monday’s court ruling for three student activists who stormed a government square in 2014, Leung said the government respects the court and that Hong Kong’s judiciary is independent. He added that it is up to the Department of Justice to decide whether to file appeals.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.