A Hong Kong secondary school that suspended a student for displaying the political slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now” during online classes broke its silence on Monday, saying disciplinary action had been taken in accordance with Benjamin Franklin’s maxim of “love well, whip well”.
Without going into details of the case, Heung To Middle School said in an internal statement to parents that its disciplinary actions were aimed at letting students reflect on their mistakes, and that the school had “always attached great importance” to teaching pupils to abide by the law and fostering their sense of national identity.
Last Monday, a Form Four pupil at the school in Kowloon Tong was told by management that he would be suspended for a week for having an image of a flag bearing the controversial slogan as his profile picture for online lessons, according to the school’s student concern group.
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The group added that the student was warned by management that he could be given demerits, and was told to consider transferring to another school.
The slogan – along with similar phases, such as “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times”, which became popular during last year’s anti-government protests – has been deemed by local authorities a violation of the city’s sweeping, Beijing-drafted national security law.
The legislation, which came into effect on June 30, outlaws in broad terms any acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.
Heung To’s student concern group had criticised the student’s penalty as “too harsh”, while the Education Bureau weighed in last week to say the slogan carried implications of Hong Kong independence, and advocated secession or subverting the power of the central government.
In a statement issued by principal Wong Chung-leung, the school, which has described itself as a “traditional patriotic school”, said penalties given to pupils were based on the severity of the infraction.
“As an education institution that has been up and running for 75 years, our school has an established mechanism to handle students who break the rules, and hands down disciplinary actions according to the nature and seriousness of the case, as well as the student’s attitude, with an aim to let them reflect on and correct their mistakes,” he said.
“We have always attached great importance to students’ moral education, teaching students to abide by the law, to distinguish between right and wrong, and to recognise their sense of identity as Chinese nationals.”
The statement added: “By taking disciplinary actions, we are abiding by the principle of ‘love well, whip well’ … We don’t want to see any student’s future being destroyed because of their participation in any illegal activities.”
The school also added that it would be in contact with the disciplined student’s parents.
Heung To did not reply to a Post inquiry on Monday. The Post has also reached out to the Education Bureau for comment.
In June, more than 100 pupils from Heung To and several other schools staged a human chain protest after a teacher claimed her contract wasn’t renewed because she did not stop pupils from performing the popular protest anthem Glory to Hong Kong during music exams and did not “share the same political views” as the school.
Singing Glory to Hong Kong, along with forming human chains and chanting slogans, was among the activities education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said should not take place on campuses, with teachers told to take action if pupils did not stop when told.