Two more Hong Kong teachers have been banned from Hong Kong’s schools for having links to months of unrest and protests which rocked the city.

According to new figures from the Education Bureau, as of the end of April, the total number of teachers stripped of their registration in relation to the “social turmoil” of the 2019 protests has risen to four.

Hong Kong students wearing masks. Photo: GovHK.

Of the two of most recent deregistrations linked to 2019, one came after being convicted of participating in “unlawful activities” during the protests while another was banned from teaching after the bureau found he “continuously used a large amount of one-sided and biased teaching materials”.

The “biased” materials included “contents without support by evidence or even distorted facts” and were “one-sided in defaming the nation and arousing students’ hostility towards the nation and Chinese people and undermining students’ sense of national identity”, the bureau said.

The two deregistrations were made in relation to what the officials described as “social turmoil”, referring to pro-democracy protests that rocked the city for months in 2019 and led to Beijing’s implementation of a sweeping national security law last June.

The move means four teachers in total have been deregistered in connection with the protests. A total of 10 teachers have been deregistered since 2020. More than 73,000 people are registered to teach in Hong Kong’s schools.

The bureau’s figures also show a rise in other disciplinary action against teachers. In the past four months, the bureau has issued 17 reprimand letters and 28 warning letters for cases “relating to social turmoil.” Only 20 reprimand letters and 14 warning letters were issued for the year of 2020.

Photo: NowTV screenshot.

One reprimand letter was issued to a teacher who played a song “with strong political messages” in his classroom.

Last year, two teachers were disqualified for “inappropriate teaching materials,” one of whom “disseminated the message of Hong Kong independence” in his classroom.

Deregistered teachers are considered disqualified from the profession for life and are banned from entering school campuses.

The latest deregistrations come amid growing fears from democrats that the authorities are targeting all political dissent in the city’s schools, where a national security curriculum has been implemented. In mid-April, the government held a “National Security Education Day” to instil a sense of patriotism and national identity in the city’s students.

The city’s largest teacher’s union has expressed fears the government is clamping down on the city’s schools and have accused the government of creating an environment of “white terror” after the city officials called for “bad apples” to be removed from the profession.

The bureau has investigated 259 of the 269 complaints filed since June 2019 until the end of 2020, 99 of which were “unsubstantiated”.

Social media messages

Complaint cases against teachers since 2019 fell into three categories: “inappropriate teaching materials”, “posting inappropriate messages on social media”, and “disorderly conduct”.

The bureau said misconduct complaints against teachers which do not relate to criminal activities are still grounds for deregistration.

Hong Kong students stage a human chain protest on September 26, 2019. Photo: Studio Incendo.

“Since teacher registration concerns students’ well-being, the EDB and the public have high expectations of teachers. Even if some of the acts are not illegal or are not convicted because of various reasons, they may still not be accepted from the perspective of the education professional or students’ well-being,” its report read.

Simply forwarding inappropriate messages counted as misconduct, the bureau said. “These messages included of vulgar, foul and abusive languages, insulted and cursed against other people, showed support or even encourage students to participate in activities like political assemblies and forming human chains.”

During the 2019 protests, high school students across the city formed human chains in a show of solidarity with the pro-democracy movement.

The paper classified disseminating the message “Hong Kong Independence” and being imprisoned for breaking the law as serious cases. “[E]ven if they involve one single incident, we may still consider cancelling the teacher registration,” the bureau said.

The bureau submitted its paper to the Legislative Council last week. It will be heard by the legislature’s panel on education this Friday.

Arts teacher probed over cartoons

Other teachers in the city are bracing for potential deregistration. The bureau is currently investigating 10 individuals, eight of whom are involved in legal proceedings.

A visual arts teacher known as “vawongsir” on social media said the bureau had asked him to explain “inappropriate” satirical cartoons he drew outside of the classroom as it investigates an anonymous complaint made against him.

Photo: vawongsir via Instagram.

“It turns out a visual arts teacher drawing outside of the classroom is also wrong!” he wrote on Instagram last Friday. He also said the bureau described his works as making “unreasonable” accusations, including that the rule of law is dead.

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.