Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has compared the promotion of Hong Kong independence in schools to the use of foul language on campus. Although it was not illegal, it breaks school rules, Leung claimed.

Reporters asked Leung on Tuesday morning about plans by student localist groups to hand out pamphlets on the independence issue after the start of the new academic year in September. He was also asked whether he could explain what would be illegal about such action. Leung once again said the discussion of independence from China in schools was “absolutely not a matter of freedom of speech.”

“School rules are stricter than laws in society. For instance, a student using foul language in schools is not an illegal act but it breaks school rules,” he said. “You won’t be sent to court for using foul language in public, but a student may be kicked out of school for swearing if warning after warning are ignored.”

Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

Leung said there was no room for discussion on the issue for secondary school students, because “Hong Kong is an inalienable of China no matter in terms of history, politics, constitutional arrangements and stipulations in the Basic Law.”

“What more can be discussed? Therefore if students really need to discuss it in schools, the stance of schools and teachers should be clear: that Hong Kong is an inalienable of China,” he said.

Amendments to Professional Code

The Education Bureau last week warned that teachers may lose their professional qualifications if they advocate independence in schools.

But last Saturday, education minister Eddie Ng clarified that the existing regulations, such as the Codes of Aids, Education Ordinance and the Professional Code have provided enough guidelines for teachers and principals to follow, without suggesting the need for a new set of guidelines towards independence advocates in schools.

File Photo: HKFP.

Discussions to modify the Professional Code of Hong Kong are set to begin next week in the Council on Professional Conduct in Education.

Asked whether the government agreed that the Professional Code should include stipulations banning teachers from advocating independence, Leung did not directly answer.

“Schools should be clear how to handle the matter of independence, this is a matter of right and wrong, black and white, there is no ambiguity, principals and teachers should state their stance clearly in front of students,” he said, restating that it was clear that Hong Kong is an inalienable of China.

Fanny Law. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Leung’s statements came after comments from Executive Councillor and former education minister Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun on Monday.

Law suggested that schools should meet with the parents of students who wish to set up groups to advocate independence from China, in order to “understand how their family background affected them.”

She also suggested schools could invite members of the National People’s Congress or the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference to give talks with students, if schools found difficulty in handling the matter.

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.