Hong Kong’s Education Secretary Kevin Yeung has told all principals in Hong Kong that students should not chant slogans, sing political songs or form human chains in protest.
In a letter to all primary and secondary schools on Wednesday, Yeung cited the looming national security law and safety concerns, warning that teachers and teachers must also avoid partaking in political class boycotts.
Yeung said pupils should not take part in “dangerous or unlawful” activities “[s]uch as chanting slogans, forming human chains, and posting slogans or singing songs which contain political messages at schools for expressing political stance.”
Yeung claimed such actions would “compromise harmony on campuses, stir up other people’s emotions and make them feel stressed, and ultimately undermine the progress of learning.”
In June, Beijing enacted laws to prevent, stop and punish behaviour in Hong Kong that it deemed a threat to national security. The legislation was inserted into the city’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, foreign interference and inference with transportation and other infrastructure. The move – which gave police sweeping new powers – alarmed democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.
The education chief urged headteachers to immediately counsel and discipline students and teachers to stop any such activities.
The letter also said that the national security law will not affect the right to free speech or the right to protest.
It came in light of a move by student and labour groups to vote in a referendum this Sunday on whether to go on strike over the controversial security law. The move also follows a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest.
On Saturday, Yeung said principals can call the police as a last resort if pupils show disrespect towards the Chinese national anthem.
The new national anthem law criminalises mockery of March of the Volunteers. Violators face a HK$50,000 fine or three years in prison.