The education sector lawmaker said that the government has confirmed it will not require school sponsoring bodies to return a reply slip over whether they will arrange for students to watch a live broadcast of a forum attended by a top Beijing official.

Ip Kin-yuen said he was told of the latest response from the Education Bureau in a phone call on Friday morning, which clarified that reply slip was merely an invitation to sponsoring bodies.

“This is very important. If they are required to return the reply slip, they will need to fill in the number of schools that will participate in the broadcast. That will become a kind of pressure on them, because they have to somehow be accountable to the Education Bureau,” he said. “Schools and sponsoring bodies will be able to make their arrangement according to their real professional judgement.”

Ip Kin-yuen
Ip Kin-yuen with the reply slip from Education Bureau to school sponsoring bodies. Photo: In-Media.

The Bureau had encouraged school sponsoring bodies to cancel classes so that students may watch the televised Basic Law forum on November 16, but maintained that participation was voluntarily.

Li Fei, the deputy secretary general of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, was invited to make a speech on Hong Kong’s role and mission under the Chinese Constitution and the Basic Law. The forum will also feature an expert panel on Hong Kong’s development under “One Country, Two Systems.”

Ip said the comprehension level required for the speeches would be too high for secondary school students, as they will be written for people with a deep knowledge of the Basic Law.

“It is not a good way to conduct Basic Law education. I believe – not just me – but many people in society will understand this.”

Li Fei
Li Fei in Hong Kong on September 1, 2014, explaining the decision made by Beijing on Hong Kong’s political structure. Photo: GovHK.

Ip said he believed many teachers were confused over how to arrange the live broadcast so that students will not fall asleep.

“I hope Education Bureau can learn its lessons… I urge it to respect schools’ professional judgement when conducting Basic Law education. Politics should not come above education, and schools’ normal operations should not be interfered with.”

“This is an individual incident. But is there a trend, a series of plans, behind this individual incident? We don’t know yet. We will pay attention.”

On Wednesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said there was nothing mandatory in the arrangement. “You can just not watch it if you close your eyes,” she said.

Meanwhile, the government published advertisements in newspapers on Friday to hire young policy researchers – with wages of up to HK$95,000 a month – into the reformed Central Policy Unit, a new initiative introduced by Lam.

“The most important thing is whether the hiring guidelines can attract people from a wide political spectrum. If it’s possible, so that more young people can participate in policy making, or they can understand more about the policy-making process, it should be a good thing,” Ip said.

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.