Hong Kong’s largest teachers’ union has said it will focus on education and continue to serve its members to the best of its ability after the government announced it would no longer recognise the body over the weekend.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union’s (HKPTU) statement on Tuesday came on the same day the city’s leader expressed her support for the Education Bureau’s (EDB) decision to cut ties with the union for “dragging schools into politics.”
“The HKPTU has decided this week that it will focus on the rights and interests of the education sector, spare no efforts to carry out its role as a union, serving its members and continuing to provide them with a diverse range of welfare services, ” the statement read.
The union also expressed “disappointment” at the EDB’s decision to ignore complaints made through the body, but vowed to continue follow-up on members’ requests for assistance.
The EDB’s announcement that it would no longer consult with the pro-democracy union came within hours of articles on Chinese state media outlets calling the union a “poisonous tumour” that must be “eradicated.”
The city’s schools have been blamed by some government supporters for the city’s 2019 protests, which saw student-aged protesters clash with police. Since then, teachers have faced increasing scrutiny, with at least three disqualified from the profession for life over incidents related to the protests.
‘Putting safety first’
The union also refuted government criticism that the union had politicised schools and students. Chief Executive Carrie Lam earlier on Tuesday had blamed the union’s teachers for violent episodes between student-aged protesters and police during the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest.
“As we all know, HKPTU is a union that belongs to teachers and has always advocated for peace, rationality and non-violence,” its statement read.
“From the very beginning, the union has cared about the development of education, taken the responsibility of caring for teachers’ and students’ rights and welfare, and putting safety first,” it continued.
The union also sought to distance itself from the radicalisation of the 2019 protests: “The union has also cared about the development of the nation, and has opposed Hong Kong Independence.”
The 2019 pro-democracy protests descended into sometimes violent clashes between police and student-aged protesters, a minority of whom advocated for Hong Kong to be independent from mainland China. Authorities have warned that calls for Hong Kong independence may violate the Beijing-imposed national security law enacted last year.
Lam has declined to comment on whether there is an ongoing investigation into the union but has warned authorities will “stringently” implement the security law.
The pro-democracy union boasts around 95,000 members and represents 90 per cent of the city’s educators.