Responding to news that Hong Kong’s Education Bureau has stripped a primary school teacher of his teaching registration for “spreading pro-independence messages”, the Head of Amnesty International’s China Team, Joshua Rosenzweig, said:
“The severe and unwarranted punishment handed to a primary school teacher for actions fully consistent with his role sends an ominous message to Hong Kong’s educators about the risks of discussing current affairs, politics and human rights in the classroom.
“It appears this teacher has been targeted for asking students to consider questions about ‘Hong Kong independence’ and ‘freedom of expression’. The removal of his teaching registration for ‘spreading pro-independence messages’ illustrates how freedom of expression is increasingly being eroded in Hong Kong, especially since the enactment of the national security law.
“The Hong Kong authorities must not use national security as a pretext to unnecessarily censor educational activities, and they should not reprimand teachers for encouraging students to think about legitimate questions related to Hong Kong affairs.
“Instead, educators should be encouraged to strengthen respect for human rights, foster a diversity of opinions and enable children to participate in public discussions.”
Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said on Monday night that a teacher from the Alliance Primary School in the Kowloon Tong district had been stripped of his teaching registration for “spreading the idea of Hong Kong independence” in violation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
The authorities did not disclose the precise incident that led to the punishment. However, local media reported that the teacher had given pupils a worksheet containing questions such as “What is freedom of speech?” and “What is the reason for advocating Hong Kong independence?”
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said this was the first time the Hong Kong government had revoked a teaching licence on grounds other than sexual or other criminal offences. She criticized teachers using their teaching position “to smear the country and the Hong Kong SAR Government without basis”.