A political academic said on Monday that the government's decision to cut ties with the Professional Teachers' Union (PTU) has sparked concern that authorities are “extending their suppression”, from political parties to civil society.
Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer at the Chinese University's department of government and public administration, made the comment after the Education Bureau on Saturday announced that it no longer recognises the PTU and will stop working with it.
The bureau’s move came hours after mainland state media described the pro-democracy union, which is also the city's largest teachers' union, as a "tumour" that has to be eradicated, and accused it of encouraging anti-China activities that “messed up Hong Kong”.
Choy told RTHK's Frances Sit that other unions and groups could face similar accusations.
"If the major problem is that the PTU has been politicised, and was not performing the function of a professional body, you can also put the same kind of blame on other organisations in Hong Kong, such as trade unions and other professional bodies, such as the law professional bodies,” Choy said.
“That is the reason why we begin to worry that this is not an isolated event," he said.
The academic, who is a PTU member himself, also noted the timing of the government's decision.
"Once the state media begin to attack some organisations in Hong Kong, or when there is a political line coming out from the central government, I think under the current political atmosphere, the Hong Kong government would try to cooperate and try to match with this political line as far as possible," he said.
Speaking on a radio show on Monday, a former chief executive of the PTU, Fung Ka-keung, said the government’s change of attitude is hard to comprehend.
"The PTU has all along communicated with government officials and the pro-establishment camp. In the past [they] happily joined events held by the union and acted as officiating guests, and then suddenly, after around two years, [they] said [they’d] would stop recognising the union. I still don't understand why," he said.
But Wong Kwan-yu, who heads the pro-Beijing Federation of Education Workers, said the government's move was expected, citing the PTU’s involvement in the 2019 anti-government protests.
He said the decision of the education authorities could be seen as a form of sanction against the PTU, and he believes other organisations that joined the 2019 protests will also be called to account sooner or later.