Education University (EdUHK) and the Education Bureau have condemned messages that “congratulated” a government official’s son after his death.

The eldest son of Education Undersecretary Choi Yuk-lin died after falling from a Tsim Sha Tsui flat on Thursday morning. The reasons for the incident are still unknown.

Signs bearing the slogan “Congratulations Choi Yuk-lin’s son on going west” subsequently appeared on the campus’s Democracy Wall, on top of banners supporting freedom of expression and Hong Kong independence.

choi yuk-lin education secretary son death signs
Signs saying “Congratulations Choi Yuk-lin’s son on going west” appeared on top of other signs protesting the removal of banners advocating independence on Education University’s Democracy Wall. Photo: Chung Kim Wah/Facebook.

EdUHK issued a statement condemning the signs and apologising for any hurt they may have caused.

“The school would like to reaffirm that, whilst we enjoy our rights to freedom of expression, we should also use a peaceful and reasonable attitude to discuss different events, and respect others’ feelings. In this case, the offensive acts are shameful – we hope that the posters of the signs will be able to self-reflect,” it said.

The university said that it is reviewing CCTV footage and will take action where necessary.

Messages attacking the family were also posted online: “You knew that your son was depressed. Instead of spending time with him, you accepted a promotion and became even busier, leaving your son to be taken care of by a domestic worker. What an educational role model! You don’t even know how to be someone’s mother, how can you educate other people’s children? You are such a failure, you should resign,” one commenter said on discussion forum LIHKG.

Another user attacked the Education Bureau for not “breaking a sweat” sooner over previous teacher and pupil deaths.

Localist lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai aired similar sentiments on Facebook: “Now that something has happened so close to you, Education Bureau official, do you finally feel the cruelty of the education system? Don’t say that the people piling on are being insensitive – because these are the seeds that you have sowed.”

‘Inhumane monsters’

The Education Bureau (EDB) said that it “severely condemned the vicious and maliciously offensive behaviour” of the people responsible for the signs at the university, and thanked school authorities for taking immediate action.

Choi Yuk-lin
Choi Yuk-lin. File

On Thursday, pro-Beijing lawmaker Ben Chan launched a petition urging EdUHK to find the person responsible for the signs. “Demand that Education University use CCTV to uncover the inhumane monsters, and expel them from the school, to prevent this animal from becoming a teacher and misguiding their children!” he said.

The university’s student union issued a statement saying that it was not responsible for the signs, and that it had sent representatives to take them down. It said the university should not use the event as an opportunity to curtail students’ right to freedom of expression.

“We have still not been able to confirm if the involved party is a student of the university. In any case, it is clear that if a student is punished by school authorities as a result of a morally controversial statement, it will lead students in the future to be scared of expressing their views, self-censoring, and creating white terror on campus,” said the statement.

The union said that the university should respect the autonomy of the student union in managing the Democracy Wall.

“Whilst we disagree with Ms. Choi on her educational policy, we will not kick someone when they’re already down due to a difference in opinion. We hope that the deceased is able to rest in peace,” it said.

Choi was appointed education undersecretary in July despite controversy over her pro-Beijing political stance.

If you are experiencing negative feelings, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084. See also: HKFP’s comprehensive guide to mental health services in Hong Kong

jun pang

Jun Pang

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.