The Education Bureau has said it is “very concerned” about the promotion of Hong Kong independence to students and that actions advocating independence “must be stopped.”

The comments came after Hong Kong National Front and Student Localism distributed pro-independence flyers outside 20 schools across Hong Kong on Tuesday after a months-long break in campaigning. The leaflets read “Hong Kong independence, back to the right track” and “the only way to defend Hong Kong and our people is to go independent.”

Pro-independence flyers handed out by Hong Kong National Front and Student Localism. Photo: Facebook.

In a statement published on Tuesday, the Education Bureau said: “We call upon the education sector to stop pro-independence activists from disseminating to students messages which are in violation of the Basic Law.”

“We hope students can learn in a peaceful and safe environment free from interferences,” the Education Bureau said, adding it will provide schools with support as the situation warrants.

It also said that actions promoting independence undermine one country, two systems, “contravene the Basic Law and damage relations between the Central People’s Government and the HKSAR” and “are also detrimental to the overall and long-term interests of Hong Kong society.”

File Photo: Karen Cheung/HKFP.

“Everybody with a passion for Hong Kong has the responsibility to ensure that, here in Hong Kong, ‘one country, two systems’ advances in the right direction, has the obligation to say ‘no’ to any attempt to threaten our country’s sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as the duty to nurture our next generation into citizens with a sense of national identity, affection for Hong Kong and a sense of social responsibility,” it said.

Last year, Student Localism also organised students to hand out pro-independence flyers outside schools on the first day of school on September 1. Some schools allowed students to do so, but there were cases of students being stopped by teaching staff outside school gates.

The Education Bureau said that over the years “school managements have gained considerable experience in handling politicised incidents” and that “students are also offered counseling as needed.”

Pro-independence notices at HKU. File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

In September, the emergence of Hong Kong independence banners on university “Democracy Wall” message boards sparked controversy, as some schools removed them without seeking the consent of student unions. The banners prompted a joint statement from the vice-chancellors of ten universities, who condemned the pro-independence materials as “abuses” of freedom of expression.

While acknowledging that tertiary institutions are autonomous bodies, the Education Bureau also said it believes “they have the responsibility as well as the ability to deal with incidents on their campuses properly while looking after their students’ interests.”

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.