The head of a Hong Kong primary school at the centre of accusations a teacher spread pro-independence messages in class has called the matter “extremely regretful and saddening” in a letter to parents.
Stephanie Ng Lai-fun, principal of the private Alliance Primary School in Kowloon Tong, broke her silence for the first time since the male staff member was stripped of his right to teach in the city, and banned from all schools, by the Education Bureau.
In her letter, Ng, who only took charge at the start of this academic year, said she had received many messages of support from parents and alumni, something she called “heart-warming”.
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“We hope there will be time for us to soothe the pain, with importance attached to the school’s benefits,” she wrote. “We hope that our teachers can be protected, and students can be given a calm environment to continue their learning.”
Education officials said the teacher, who left after being deregistered last month, was spreading pro-independence ideas in classrooms through a “biased and twisted” worksheet and lesson plan, which spent at least 85 minutes on the topic.
The worksheet, based on a television documentary that touched on pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin, asked Primary Five pupils to answer questions including, “What is freedom of speech?” and “Why is the idea of Hong Kong independence being raised?”
It was the first instance of a teacher being deregistered after last year’s anti-government protests erupted.
While the teacher did not take the lessons in March last year himself, three others who did were given written warnings. The vice-principal and former principal were also reprimanded for being lax in their supervision.
Pupils, alumni and parents from the school have expressed concern over the bureau’s decision, calling it a “violation of procedural justice” and arguing the teacher was only hoping to nurture critical thinking among children.
An online petition has gathered more than 1,600 signatures from alumni and parents showing support for the teacher as of Friday afternoon.
A group of alumni and parents also supported the teacher in a front-page advert in the Apple Daily newspaper on Friday, citing the first line from the school’s anthem, “Alliance students, arise!” and partially quoting from the Bible, Isaiah, chapter 51, verse 7: “You who know what is right … Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults.”
An alumnus surnamed Yeung, a co-founder of the online petition who graduated from the primary school in 2007, said: “It is heartening to see so many showing solidarity and support.”
Separately, more than 20,000 people, including teachers and parents from other schools, have joined a campaign co-organised by student concern group Education Breakthrough, led by young opposition activist Isaac Cheng Ka-long, to protest against the government by sending letters to the bureau, demanding the officials revoke the decision.
Nineteen opposition lawmakers also threw their weight behind the teacher on Friday, calling the government’s decision an “abuse of power” and “political interference in the education profession”.
But many pro-establishment figures have backed the move. Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, now a vice-chairman of China’s top political advisory body, has also called for the teacher to reveal his identity saying parents have a right to know.
The 100,000-strong Professional Teachers’ Union has been helping the teacher appeal the decision, and did not rule out the possibility of lodging a judicial review through the courts.
More from South China Morning Post:
- What you need to know about the education row in which a Hong Kong teacher was disqualified for discussing independence
- More than 20,000 Hong Kong schoolteachers, students and parents join email campaign against teacher’s deregistration after independence discussion