Hong Kong’s education secretary has pushed back against calls for authorities to name and shame teachers under investigation for alleged misconduct, despite the city’s ex-leader endorsing such tactics.

Ex-chief executive Leung Chun-ying has repeatedly urged members of the public to report teachers accused of misconduct. He posted the information of 18 teachers charged with protest-related criminal offences to Facebook earlier this month, saying public interest overrode privacy.

education kid child school
Photo: GovHK.

Responding to questions from DAB lawmaker Elizabeth Quat at the legislature, the Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said on Wednesday that the Education Bureau (EDB) is subject to the Personal Data (Privacy Ordinance) and “strictly adheres to the principle of confidentality.”

“Apart from abiding by the requirements in the relevant legislation, we also need to consider the negative effects on the schools, the staff and the students concerned,” he added.

“We understand that members of the public have grave concern over and high expectation on teachers’ professional conduct. We will consolidate and analyse the cases we have handled, or select some common or typical cases for parents and society to learn about the actual situation of the incidents.”

Privacy concern

Quat had cited the UK, US and Australian practice of publicising details – such as the names of individuals and schools concerned – when probes were opened into teachers facing complaints.

But the education secretary said that countries and regions have different backgrounds, laws and procedures: “We cannot simply transplant part of their system to Hong Kong.”

Kevin Yeung
Hong Kong Secretary For Education Kevin Yeung. File photo: GovHK.

Yeung declined to comment further owing to a judicial review initiated by Leung’s website – 803 Funds Limited – to force the government to identify teachers found guilty of professional misconduct. The platform offers rewards to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and prosecution of targeted pro-democracy figures.

“In view of the ongoing legal proceedings, it is not appropriate for us to make [a] further response on the case details, lest affecting the conduct of the legal proceedings concerned,” the education secretary said.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union – a pro-democracy group – condemned Leung’s decision to publicise the information of teachers facing protest-related criminal charges as an infringement on personal privacy and creating “white terror.” It has filed a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.