Hundreds of petitions have appeared over recent days in opposition to the Hong Kong government’s controversial extradition bill, attracting thousands of signatories from Hong Kong and overseas.
The bill – which would allow the city to transfer fugitives to jurisdictions with no prior agreement – already sparked a mass protest last month that saw 130,000 Hongkongers take to the streets.
One of the first petitions was launched on Monday by the alumni of secondary schools that were once attended by top local officials. By Wednesday evening, independent petition pages had been set up for over 200 secondary schools.
A petition from St. Francis’ Canossian College called on their alumna Chief Executive Carrie Lam to withdraw the bill: “We hope that our alumna can remember the school motto of ‘Live by the truth in love’ and turn back from the brink, to prevent causing even bigger injustice, and join Hongkongers in protecting human rights, freedom and rule of law,” it read.
Security chief John Lee and justice chief Teresa Cheng were also criticised in petitions linked to their alma maters – Wah Yan College Kowloon and St. Mary’s Canossian College respectively.
Lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland.
The Hong Kong government previously said the extradition bill could help bring justice for Poon Hiu-wing, a pregnant 20-year-old local woman who was allegedly killed by her boyfriend during a trip to Taiwan last February.
However, alumni from Poon’s alma mater, St. Stephen’s College, also launched a petition opposing the bill, saying that there were other ways to resolve Poon’s case.
“The Hongkonger killed in Taiwan was one of us, and our teachers, students and alumni all grieve her passing. But the government… used the false pretenses of ‘seeking justice’ to push through the amendment,” the petition read.
Other petitions launched in recent days have been linked to universities, international schools, Hong Kong students studying overseas, primary schools, various industries, professions and neighbourhoods. One petition – titled “Housewives across Hong Kong, Kowloon, New Territories and the Outlying Islands oppose extradition to China” – gained almost 2,000 signatures a day after it was published.
Many of the petitions, which were distributed via Google forms, had been later updated to show the names of hundreds of signatories.
Education minister responds
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said on Tuesday that he was told the petitions only reflected the opinion of individuals, but not the schools as a whole.
“I believe that schools should focus on education. If students have questions about social issues, I hope teachers can explain it objectively, without adding personal ideas or political opinions,” he said.
Students educated in Hong Kong will be able to tell right from wrong, and the Education Bureau will help explain the extradition bill to them if needed, Yeung added.
The pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the petitions for “mixing together politics and education.”
“[The Federation] strongly opposes the act of bringing one’s political ends onto campuses, trying to use teachers and students to prove a political point, and seriously disrupting the peaceful environment of schools,” the group said.
The Federation also issued a statement earlier in the month supporting the extradition bill.
Visit the website of this secondary school in Shau Kei Wan and you’ll be informed that an anti-extradition petition circulated by alumni and current teachers was not initiated by the school
Let’s spare a thought for the teachers who signed, who still have to go to work every day pic.twitter.com/17aY8EPL8D
— Aaron Mc Nicholas (@aaronMCN) May 29, 2019
In response, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) said that the public should approve of teachers, students and alumni paying attention to current affairs.
There was no evidence to say that the signatories were “used” as political pawns, and the petitions show that there is a strong public backlash to the bill, the HKPTU added.
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