Hong Kong’s largest teachers’ union is set to complete its dissolution and distribute remaining funds to members two years after announcing it would close down following pressure from the government and Chinese state media.

Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.
Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The pro-democracy Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) – the city’s largest single-industry union with more than 95,000 members – passed a special resolution in September 2021 to dissolve after Chinese state-run People’s Daily and news wire Xinhua denounced it as a “poisonous tumour” that must be “eradicated” and the city’s education authorities severed ties with it.

“After traversing half a century, HKPTU is soon to draw its final chapter,” the union said in a statement posted on Facebook as it announced arrangements for distributing remaining funds and bade farewell to members.

In a letter to members on Friday, HKPTU said it had been handling matters relating to the dissolution, including staff dismissal, disposal of properties, termination of contracts with service providers and settling outstanding liabilities.

It said all regulatory audits and compliances with tax authorities had been completed, and surplus funds currently maintained by the union would be distributed equally to members.

“Each qualified member will receive a sum of HK$3,190,” the letter read. Qualified members include regular and honorary members who did not terminate their membership on or after August 10, 2021, it added.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union announces arrangements for distribution of surplus funds amid dissolution procedure. Photo: Screenshot.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union announces arrangements for distribution of surplus funds amid dissolution procedure. Photo: Screenshot.

It said the funds were derived from the sales of properties after deducting expenses including staff dismissal expenses and audit fees.

According to the union’s website, the HKPTU had sold four properties including its two service centres in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, the general office in Mong Kok, and a property in San Po Kong as of last month. The sales grossed around HK$420 million, according to Ming Pao.

The union said it had engaged with Acclime Corporate Advisory (Hong Kong) Limited, a firm which provides company winding-up services, to handle the distribution in an orderly manner.

50 years of history

The union, a pro-democracy group and once a prominent voice in civil society, was founded in 1973.

See also: Explainer: A 48-year-old union gone in 11 days – how Hong Kong teachers lost a powerful voice

It had represented over 90 per cent of the city’s educators and had traditionally lobbied for better working conditions for teachers, for student-orientated educational reforms, and for wider democracy for the city.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union press conference
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union press conference announced their decision to disband in August last year. File Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

But, in August 2021, the union decided to disband following Chinese state media’s call for its “eradication” and government accusations that it was “dragging schools into politics.”

“We have felt enormous pressure,” HKPTU president Fung Wai-wah told reporters during a press conference to announce the disbandment decision. “We understand that many members have a deep connection with the union, and feel sad about the disbanding of the HKPTU.”

“I can only say that the social and political situation changed too fast and too quickly,” Fung said back then, adding the union “could not see a way forward.”

Despite the disbandment announcement, state media continued to slam the pro-democracy union. Xinhua wrote that the HKPTU’s dissolution was a “futile attempt to launder itself,” which “will not write off its alleged crimes in the past.”

The HKPTU was among more than 50 civil society organisations which folded in the wake of Hong Kong’s national security law crackdown, according to an HKFP tally.

“We hereby seek every member’s cooperation to support our last mission in the history of 50 years,” the union wrote on Friday as it urged members to complete and return a form for the distribution of the funds.

“We are grateful for the members’ continuous care and support over the years. Wish everyone peace and health[,]” the letter read.

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Hans Tse is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in local politics, academia, and media transformation. He was previously a social science researcher, with writing published in the Social Movement Studies and Social Transformation of Chinese Societies journals. He holds an M.Phil in communication from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Before joining HKFP, He also worked as a freelance reporter for Initium between 2019 and 2021, where he covered the height - and aftermath - of the 2019 protests, as well as the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.