Education Secretary Kevin Yeung said on Wednesday that his bureau's call for a teacher who was arrested this week to be suspended should not be seen as a form of punishment, and the request was only made with student safety in mind.
The teacher, 31, was one of a dozen people, including several students, arrested in Sheung Shui on Monday after police allegedly seized some "home-made weapons".
The teacher has been charged with possessing instruments fit for unlawful purposes, namely two pairs of scissors, pliers and a wrench, and appeared in Fanling Magistrates' Court along with three others on Wednesday. No pleas were taken and the four were released on bail before their case is due to be heard again on February 5.
But the Education Bureau has asked the teacher's school to consider suspending him even before any conviction.
Yeung said the bureau has always dealt with such cases seriously.
"We will consider the background of the case, what's happening actually in these cases and then we decide whether there is misconduct on the teacher's part," he told reporters.
"If there is really some misconduct behaviour, we will consider necessary disciplinary actions as we are the registration authority for teachers which include, maybe a warning, a reprimand or even de-registration if their offences are very serious in nature."
He did not elaborate on why the bureau feels the need for the teacher to be suspended immediately, and the school's decision on whether to comply with this request is not yet known.
But education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the teacher should be presumed innocent until proven guilty by the courts.
"This is violating the essence of common law ... I think this is inappropriate and is causing the school to be under very severe pressure," Ip said.
The Education Bureau said earlier that between the middle of June and early last month, it launched 106 investigations into suspected breaches of professional ethics by teachers in relation to the city's social unrest.
It said 60 cases have been completed, with around half of them preliminarily substantiated. Two warning letters have been issued and the bureau is considering punishments for the other breaches found, officials said.
On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she fears "violence has entered" the city's schools and she has ordered Yeung to "seriously follow up" on any teachers found to have violated rules.