The Hong Kong government has requested over 100 schools and institutions to ensure “all key personnel” involved in providing subsidised further education courses safeguard national security.

The Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) revised the terms for all courses under the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) on Tuesday, stating that from immediate effect all relevant groups must safeguard national security.

Hong Kong China flag patriotic national security
Chinese national flags and HKSAR regional flags. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“In case of any suspected breach of national security requirements in the CEF terms and conditions, the LWB will suspend or even de-register the CEF courses of the institutions/organisations concerned, and refer the cases to law enforcement agencies for follow-up,” the bureau said in a response to HKFP on Wednesday.

The Audit Commission said in a report last November that CEF did not include any terms linked to national security in its cooperation with course providers. The authority suggested CEF include new terms to ensure national security risks were considered.

The commission also noted that some CEF courses were promoted as a way to migrate, such as “go to the UK and work as an electrician,” which was not aligned with the mission of CEF.

John Lee National Security Education Day 2023
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee attends the opening ceremony of the 2023 National Security Education Day on April 15, 2023. Photo: GovHK.

Under the new terms, the institutions should ensure that everyone “involved in the management, operation or delivery” of CEF courses “acquire a correct understanding,” comply with the national security law, and did not engage in any activities that violated the law or were “contrary to the interest of national security”.

The bureau also said that relevant groups should make sure that all key personnel involved in CEF courses “are not under police investigation for, charged with or convicted of any offence endangering national security under the National Security Law.”

The CEF, established in 2002 by the government, funds private and public institutions to provide a wide range of courses for Hong Kong residents aged 18 to 70.

According to a CEF list of course providers, there are over 100 institutions, including universities and colleges, schools offering cooking classes, driving schools, language classes, and make-up classes.

Central Business Cityview
File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Language and culture institutes Wall Street English and the German group Goethe Institute are also on the list.

The bureau has issued letters to all the schools providing courses under the CEF and asked them to reply in writing within two weeks to acknowledge their understanding of the new terms and their “ongoing compliance with relevant requirements.”

When asked whether letters have been sent to all the groups on the list, a bureau spokesperson said they had no further comments.

Chan, a vice chancellor of the wedding planning and make-up school Monita Academy, told HKFP that the school had received the letter and would reply to the government soon.

“We always support the government’s policy. Since what happened in 2019, we have been demanding all the staff to obey with the law during staff meetings,” Chan, who requested only her surname be disclosed, said.

HKFP has reached out to some other providers for a response.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She previously worked at Initium Media as chief editor for Hong Kong news and was a community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation serving the underprivileged. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Irene is the recipient of two Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards and three honourable mentions for her investigative, feature and video reporting. She also received a Human Rights Press Award for multimedia reporting and an honourable mention for feature writing.