The Council on Professional Conduct in Education has unanimously decided in a meeting on Monday that it was not necessary to amend the Code for the Education Profession in order to include the topic of Hong Kong independence.

The decision came after some in the education sector voiced fears of suppression following rumours that the subject of Hong Kong independence may be added to the profession code to ban discussion on the topic.

Council Chairman Chow Ping-yan. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Council Chairman Chow Ping-yan said that the code is a set of principles which already contains “sufficient guidelines” for teachers to tackle controversial topics in classroom discussions in accordance with their professional judgement, RTHK reported. Chow also said that the decision not to amend the code did not have to do with the topic of Hong Kong independence being sensitive.

See also: Union: Teachers may ‘step on mines’ due to unclear restrictions on HK independence talk

Chow added that professional educators should follow the relevant guidelines and encourage students to be objective and analytical and think about the issue from different perspectives. They should also teach students to respect different viewpoints, he said.

However, Apple Daily reported that Chow did not directly answer questions on how one distinguishes between discussing and advocating independence, and whether acts such as producing teaching materials that touch on Hong Kong independence and praising students who advocate independence would violate the guidelines. He also said the code stipulates that teachers have to obey the law – including the Basic Law.

Photo: Todd Darling.

“The council is also confident principals and teachers can uphold the professional spirit, fulfil their responsibilities, and guide students in learning while respecting the laws and behaviour accepted by society,” he said.

See also: Education Sec. asks school principals to ban Hong Kong independence activities – report

The Education Bureau said in response that it has already clearly stated that Hong Kong independence was against the Basic Law and that activities advocating for independence should be banned on campus. It also said that it believed management in schools gained experience in dealing with political incidents in recent years; it is confident that teachers will follow established principles and mechanisms, and be professional in ensuring that students can learn in a safe and orderly environment.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.