A primary school in Tuen Mun has come under fire for enrolling “shadow students” – who never showed up to classes – in a suspected effort to prevent the Education Bureau from cutting its resources.

Police told HKFP that a 32-year-old man reported a case to the Tuen Mun police station in June accusing an individual at Hing Tak School of using a false instrument. The Tuen Mun crime division is following up with the case, though no arrests have been made.

Hing Tak School
Hing Tak School. File Photo: Stand News.

There were almost 30 students on the class register between 2014-2016 who never attended class, according to local media reports.

Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union Chairperson Fung Wai-wah told Ming Pao that the organisation sent a letter to the Education Bureau following complaints made in February by around ten teachers. Fung speculated that the school was concerned about classes being cut or resources being taken from them.

‘Sick leave’

A former teacher at the school told RTHK that most of these students were “doubly non-permanent resident” children born to parents with no Hong Kong permanent resident status. There were Shenzhen students who registered with the school, but had not attended classes since term began in September 2016. Their names were then kept on the register and the school told Education Bureau inspectors during their visits that the students were all sick.

The teacher believed this was in order to receive more subsidies from the Education Bureau, which were calculated in accordance with the number of students. According to the teacher, staff were asked by the principal to hand out flyers in Shenzhen so as to attract more cross-border students.

School Principal Chan Cheung-ping told reporters on Tuesday that the students took sick leave through proper procedures, and they could not ask them to leave the school. Chan also said that they were “doubly non-permanent resident” students with family problems, so had to return to Shenzhen.

chan cheung-ping
Hing Tak School principal Chan Cheung-ping. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Chan appeared visibly shaken and became teary, saying that the accusations were very unfair to her and the school’s board of directors. “I feel very wronged as a principal… everything I did, I did for the students. I have never contemplated doing something illegal, and will never do so.”

Violation of regulations

When asked about the incident, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said that the Education Bureau has been receiving complaints from different sectors regarding the relationship between the school management and the teachers, and have commenced mediation and investigatory work.

Yeung added that four school managers have been appointed to the Incorporated Management Committee in order to “help the school rectify its problems” and “to make sure that the school will operate properly.”

Kevin Yeung
Kevin Yeung. File Photo: GovHK.

The Bureau said that part of the investigation has been completed and some regulatory violations have been found. Students who registered, but did not officially enrol and attend classes, were allowed to keep their place in the school, who – in turn – failed to inform the bureau.

The Bureau also said that the school should have made a report when a student missed classes for seven consecutive days, in accordance with regulations. There is also, currently, a probe into the school’s financial arrangements.

The school received a warning but has yet to make any improvements or cooperate with the investigation, the Bureau said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui also said that he will request the Legislative Council Panel on Education to follow up on the incident.

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.