The Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) has launched a crowdfunding drive to support teachers who face allegations related to the anti-government protest movement.
The union said on Wednesday that Hong Kong teachers are facing unprecedented suppression, with complaints made against more than 100 of them recently due to their political stance.
Some of these complaints are reported to have been made anonymously, based solely on comments teachers have made on social media, yet they are still followed up seriously by schools.
The PTU's president, Fung Wai-wah, said teachers may need financial help if they are suspended or sacked, as well as if they choose to challenge such moves in court.
"We have an obligation to provide this kind of support, to provide some kind of emergency relief for these teachers so they can face this difficult situation," Fung said.
"We know that the legal expenses will be quite huge. So we want to support the teachers so that they can fight for their own rights and so that they will not be alone."
The union said it will inject an initial sum into the fund but it hopes teachers and the public will help raise millions more.
Fung said he was confident the fund will not run into any problems, even though the recent closure of an account used by the Spark Alliance to collection donations for protesters – and a subsequent police investigation – shows "anything can happen" in the current climate.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Kevin Yeung has denied infringing upon teachers' freedom of speech by penalising them for what are regarded as inappropriate comments on social media.
In a question and answer session in Legco, he said most complaints handled by the Education Bureau regarding alleged professional misconduct over the past few months were related to teachers posting "hate, malicious or abusive messages and messages that promote violence".
He said such comments had fallen short of people's expectations of teachers and the bureau has an obligation to take appropriate action.
Yeung also said that the professional code for teachers doesn't just regulate their conduct in schools, but also in their private lives.
"The moral values displayed by teachers in private forum is also part of their professional conduct. I must stress that this is neither limiting teachers' right to express their views on social issues and political beliefs, nor infringing upon [or] reducing the freedom of speech enjoyed by teachers," he said.
But education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the authorities are stretching their application of the Code for the Education Profession of Hong Kong too far.
"Teachers have their own private lives so it's impossible to extend the professional requirements, without limit, to their private lives," Ip said.
The lawmaker added that education officials should not be allowed to pass judgement over what teachers say to friends or others in private settings.
Crowdfunding bid launched for 'persecuted' teachers
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