The Education Secretary, Kevin Yeung, said on Friday that schools that fail to act or report obvious breaches of the national security law on campuses could be held responsible under new guidelines on national security education.
His comments came one day after the Education Bureau issued guidelines to all schools in Hong Kong "on school administration and education in relation to safeguarding national security".
The notices explained that teachers should teach pupils as young as six about the national security law, and advised schools to seek police assistance when they see potential breach of the law on campuses.
According to the notices, activities such as chanting slogans and forming human chains – which some pupils did during the social unrest in 2019 – should be stopped and reported to the police when necessary in future.
The minister stressed on Friday that schools are not a place to promote political views.
Speaking on a Commercial Radio programme, Yeung made it clear that the slogan "Revolution of Our Times" is not allowed on campuses.
He pointed out that schools could first consult the police community relations officer or the force's school liaison officer over suspected illegal acts, and report directly to the police for more serious offences.
And if there are obvious breaches of the national security law on campus but the school chooses not to stop that, Yeung said schools could be held responsible because they may be seen as failing to uphold their duties under the new guidelines.
"For obvious activities and slogans that endangers national security... if the schools knew about it and didn't do anything about it, then schools clearly haven't done what they need to do under the guideline," he said.
"If they knew and didn't do anything, are they accepting [those behaviours] tacitly? But of course whether the claims are substantiated and lead to legal liability needs to be further investigated."
He stressed that schools have a basic responsibility to prevent activities that endanger national security on campuses.
Teachers should be trained too to understand what could amount to breaches of the law, Yeung added, saying that they can always seek police advice if they have difficulty identifying the violations.
The education chief rejected suggestions that the new guidelines undermine students' freedom of speech.
Yeung also said the bureau will be providing factual teaching materials to teachers.
When asked if teachers could use materials critical of the national security law, Yeung said they must be based on facts.
"It depends on what material it is... We will be providing a lot of factual information about the national security law and I think they can always make reference to the materials that we provide," he said in Legco at the end of a panel meeting.
On the reform of the liberal studies subject, the minister said the government is consulting the sector to see the subject should be renamed as national education in accordance with the suggestions said to be made by an expert panel member.