Education minister Kevin Yeung on Wednesday told primary and secondary school principals across the territory to discipline students who participate in a possible class boycott as a result of a planned “referendum” organised by labour unions and student groups.
The groups are holding the unauthorised ballot on Sunday, and plan to go ahead with a general strike and class boycotts if 10,000 students take part, and 60 percent vote for such action.
In a letter to principals, Yeung any students who are found to be involved in any way – from organising such action, to taking part, or encouraging others to do so – should be told to stop.
Principals and teachers should remind them to cherish their peaceful and orderly campus lives and learning opportunities”, Yeung said.
The minister also said students should be reminded not to boycott classes, shout slogans in schools, form human chains, put up posters or even sing any songs with any sort of political message.
“If individual students refuse to comply with the instructions after repeated persuasion, schools should take appropriate counselling and disciplinary actions according to the school-based mechanism to maintain discipline and order", he said.
“These actions will turn the schools into venues for expressing political demands, compromise harmony on campuses, stir up other people's emotions and make them feel stressed, and ultimately undermine the progress of learning."
Yeung further cautioned teachers against taking part as well, saying not only should schools discipline any teachers who do so, but the Education Bureau will follow up as well.
They won’t be allowed to take any ‘personal days’ for the purpose of boycotting class either, Yeung warned.
He reiterated that there's no legal framework for Hong Kong to hold any referendums, and people shouldn't take part in such 'meaningless' ballots.
Yeung said teachers and students should instead explain to students that the coming national security law only targets specific acts that endanger national security – such as secession, subversion, terrorist activities and foreign interference.
This would protect the country and ensure Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, he said, and only a tiny minority of criminals would be punished.
The rights of ordinary citizens to speak, gather or protest, he assured, would not be affected, nor would freedom of the press.
“We must guide students to analyse things in a rational manner, so they know what’s right and wrong, to prevent them from being misled into believing the incomplete and inaccurate information being dispensed by those who oppose the national security law.”
One of the campaign's organisers, Issac Cheng, said he thinks the government is against the legal expression of views because it involves a democratic process.
"The public vote is not illegal. it's not very dangerous, I think it's the students' right to take part. I didn't think the Education Bureau has the authority to ban the students from joining," he told RTHK.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, meanwhile, said he thinks Yeung is putting "high pressure" on schools to "suppress" the student action.
"I don’t think this is a very effective way in dealing with this kind of situation", he said.
Last updated: 2020-06-10 HKT 19:44