Five pro-Beijing politicians have set up a group to fight school bullying amid concerns that Hong Kong’s political crisis could make the children of police officers and mainland migrants vulnerable to animosity in the classroom.
Chan Wing-kee, a former member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is the convenor of the School Bullying Concern Group, which was established on Wednesday. He said bullying was a pressing problem and schools should “stay away from violence and hatred” so students could focus on learning.
Hong Kong has been rocked since early June by a wave of anti-government protests originating from a now-shelved extradition bill. Over that time, public anger has been directed at the government and police, and the city has been divided by fierce and even violent disputes.
Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, a lawmaker and deputy convenor of the group, said he feared that bullying would escalate because the children of police officers would be easy targets when the new school term starts next month.
“We don’t want to respond only after a case has been reported. We want to prevent this from happening,” said Cheung, who cited an online message that encouraged people to publicise the personal details of police officers and their families.
We don’t want to respond only after a case has been reported. We want to prevent this from happening
Horace Cheung, lawmaker and deputy convenor of the group
Yeung Yiu-chung, a former delegate to the National People’s Congress and a deputy convenor of the group, said he worried that the children of migrants from the mainland would be stigmatised given the heightened Hong Kong-mainland tension.
Yeung said some mainlanders who came to study or work in the city had told him their children were under intense pressure in Hong Kong because they could not speak Cantonese.
Yeung said Mandarin speakers had been targeted by local residents in recent months, and that such discrimination was detrimental to Hong Kong’s harmony and its ability to attract talent.
Chan said the concern group would first focus on referring cases of bullying to the authorities. He said it would not take a stance on other matters, such as the proposed class boycott in September.
Connie Wong Wai-ching, a CPPCC member and deputy convenor, said the group would collaborate with parents’ associations, organise talks and publish anti-bullying videos.
The group was set up a day after the education minister, Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, said the government would not tolerate any discrimination on campuses based on politics or family background.
The Education Bureau recently sent out guidelines to all primary and secondary schools regarding the planned class boycott and the current political situation. The bureau suggested that schools review their anti-bullying policies and explain them to students and parents.
Yet, not all educators agreed with the suggestions in new guidelines.
Ms Kwong, a liberal studies teacher, said she found the guidelines disturbing, specifically a section that advises “When asked some difficult questions, teachers can say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t comprehend’.”
Ms Kwong, who did not wish to use her full name, said: “Liberal studies are about training critical thinking of students. If we don’t know, we have to find more information to comprehend the situation.”
It never asks us to tell students ‘we don’t know’ on questions about the trade war and the globalisation
Ms Kwong, liberal studies teacher
The guidelines suggested that teachers remain “neutral and objective” when analysing the current political crisis and “do not need to feel responsible for providing answers to what is happening now”.
But Ms Kwong disagreed with those tactics.
“The problem is the government has been trying to single out the city’s political chaos. It never asks us to tell students ‘we don’t know’ on questions about the trade war and the globalisation,” she said.
Teddy Tang Chun-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, also said the guideline were not ideal.
“Teachers may say they do not understand the full picture because it is a complicated issue. But they should tell them in what ways they could better comprehend the situation and further discuss it with students,” Tang said.
He said he believed the guidelines were just suggestions and schools could further help teachers handle situations stemming from the current political atmosphere.