Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said he exchanged views over independence sentiments “invading schools” with officials from China’s Ministry of Education during a meeting in Beijing.

He flew to Beijing on Wednesday for a two-day duty trip. He attended a regular working meeting on Thursday with the officials, which was to “introduce the progress and achievements on education and youth development covered in the work report” of the government.

Ng told Hong Kong media after the meeting that the bureau stated clearly its stance that no activities related to independence should be found in schools. “Our stance has been fully recognised and supported by the Ministry of Education,” he said.

Eddie Ng
Eddie Ng meeting with Chinese Ministry of Education officials. Photo: GovHK.

Local media were notified of the trip 30 minutes before Ng’s departure on Wednesday. Ng’s visit to Beijing was criticised by the largest teachers’ union of the city, saying that a visit during this sensitive time would undoubtedly raise questions.

Ng said the Hong Kong government would handle the issue on its own, without any direction from Beijing.

“Students can discuss any topic under the guidance of teachers – we need to believe in the professionalism of principals and teachers,” he said. “Such discussion should be within the framework of the Basic Law.”

Article 136 of the Basic Law stipulates that: “On the basis of the previous educational system, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall, on its own, formulate policies on the development and improvement of education, including policies regarding the educational system and its administration, the language of instruction, the allocation of funds, the examination system, the system of academic awards and the recognition of educational qualifications.”

Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

Asked to comment on reports that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying met with top members of governing councils of universities last week over the discussion of independence in schools, Ng said the government regularly met with stakeholders such as university management to express views. He said he will not comment on individual cases.

On Tuesday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said 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.

The Education Bureau warned teachers on Sunday that they may lose their qualifications if they advocate Hong Kong independence in schools.

Students in 17 schools formed localism concern groups recently.

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.