Education minister Kevin Yeung on Wednesday banned students from singing, playing, or broadcasting the protest anthem Glory to Hong Kong on campus – along with all other explicitly political songs – saying children’s right to free expression “is not absolute".
While Yeung had already said last month that schools should not allow such songs to be played, his new statement issued to the Legislative Council on Wednesday is stronger and more clear-cut in imposing a direct ban.
It also specifically singles out Glory to Hong Kong.
“Schools must not allow their students to play, sing or broadcast any songs which will disrupt the normal operation of schools, affect students' emotions or contain political messages”, Yeung wrote.
“For example, the song Glory to Hong Kong, originated from the social incidents since June last year, contains strong political messages and is closely related to the social and political incidents, violence and illegal incidents that have lasted for months. Therefore, schools must not allow students to play, sing or broadcast it in schools.”
Yeung was writing in response to a question from education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, asking under what circumstances would the government regard students playing and singing songs at schools as conducting political promotion or political propaganda.
He again accused unnamed individuals and groups with ‘ulterior motives’ of ‘deliberately misleading and inciting’ students to express their political views in various ways, such as singing songs, chanting slogans, and forming human chains.
“The Education Bureau (EDB) and schools are obliged to stop these acts. It is heartbreaking to see our students being used as political chips”, he said, adding that “under no circumstances should anyone be allowed to incite students to indicate their stance on controversial or evolving political issues and mobilise them to take part in inappropriate or even unlawful activities”.
However, Yeung’s statement did not specify how schools should deal with students who violate this ban.
He also urged schools to take “prompt action” to stop students who are acting in a disrespectful manner during graduation, school opening ceremonies or other occasions, – specifically mentioning the singing of playing of political songs, and human chains.
He said human chains formed by students over the past year has ‘caused a nuisance’ to others.
“Problems such as noise nuisance have caused the resentment of residents in the neighbourhood and in some cases have even led to incidents such as confrontations, injuries to persons and throwing objects from height”, Yeung said.
“To protect the personal safety and well-being of students, both the [Education Bureau] and schools have the responsibility to stop students from forming human chains.”
Yeung added that around 1,600 minors have been arrested after they were “incited to participate in violent and unlawful activities”.
He said it’s “distressing and worrying” that a number of primary school students are among those arrested, and that students must understand that they are responsible for their behaviour.