Two secondary schools in Hong Kong have pledged not to expel pupils arrested during anti-government protests on Sunday, taking a similar stance to two other institutions whose students were shot by police and arrested earlier this month.
That came as more than 100 students and alumni formed a human chain to protest against a “black mask ban” at a secondary school, ignoring the Education Bureau chief’s warning last week that such acts “could constitute unlawful assembly”.
In another weekend of violence and vandalism in various areas across Hong Kong, at least 26 people, mostly secondary school students, were arrested in Fanling on Sunday, according to North district councillor Chan Yuk-ming.
Chan said the pupils arrested were from at least four schools and most had not been granted bail as of Monday afternoon. All were receiving legal help and none had reported any unfair treatment by police, he said.
One of those arrested was a Form Six student from Christian Alliance SW Chan Memorial College in Fanling, the school confirmed on Monday. Principal Kwong Wing-sun visited the teen at North District Hospital along with his parents on Sunday night.
“He did not suffer any serious injury, but he was unhappy,” Chan said. “Since police were present in the [hospital’s] observation ward, and because he hadn’t given them a verbal statement, we did not discuss in detail what really happened [during his arrest].”
Chan promised not to expel the student if he was convicted of an offence, but did not rule out the possibility of handing out a penalty.
“The school is a place for students to grow and learn. Even if a student has committed a mistake, [the school] still has a responsibility to teach him and guide him.”
Chan also said the student – who will sit the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams in the coming year – would be given help with his studies were he not able to attend school.
Also arrested on Sunday was a Form Three student from Fanling Lutheran Secondary School. Vice principal Lui Ming-tak said the principal had visited the boy at Sheung Shui Police Station on Sunday night, describing the student as “calm” and “not too nervous”.
Lui said the school “would not consider expelling the student”.
He added: “He’s so young. He just might not fully understand so many things. That’s why he should be given a chance.”
Earlier this month, two young protesters were shot by police in separate incidents and arrested, but their secondary schools made clear they would not be expelled, despite repeated calls from Xinhua and former city leader Leung Chun-ying for heavier punishment from educational institutions.
Six students and alumni of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Kap Yan Directors’ College in Sheung Shui were also arrested on Sunday. As of Monday morning, more than 600 people signed a petition urging the school not to expel the pupils, according to its student concern group.
Four pupils from Lok Sin Tong Ku Chiu Man Secondary School in Kwai Chung were also arrested, its student concern group said. More than 20 schoolmates boycotted class on Monday to show support.
The Sheung Shui school said via its sponsoring body Tung Wah Group of Hospitals that the status of the students arrested during the protests would not be affected if they had applied leave formally. But it did not detail the arrest cases. The Kwai Chung school has not responded to the Post’s inquiries.
Meanwhile, students and alumni from Hon Wah College in Siu Sai Wan protested in the pouring rain against the school’s alleged ban on black face masks as they formed a human chain along Harmony Road before the start of classes.
They chanted slogans and sang protest songs, many of them wearing masks in defiance of the law against face coverings, which came into effect earlier this month.
“A student wearing a black mask was asked by school [authorities] to remove it without any reasonable grounds,” an alumnus read in a statement to the school, which has a roll of about 700.
“School authorities have no right to ban students from wearing a black mask, as the anti-mask law is not applicable in school premises, this is an act of spreading ‘white terror’.”
One former student prepared a letter for principal Kwan Wing-bun demanding the school not to restrict or penalise students wearing black masks. The school did not send a representative to pick up the letter, which was left on the school gate.
A form five student, who only gave her name as Y, said she wore a black mask to school last Tuesday – the first day of classes after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor introduced the law – in protest. Y said she was asked by a teacher to remove the mask once she entered the school gates.
“I was asked along with two other students to remove our black masks once we entered the school gate, as the discipline teacher told us ‘not to bring politics into school’,” she recalled. “I was also feeling sick that day, so the teacher asked me to change my [black mask] into a surgical mask instead.”
Y said teachers also contacted her parents about her wearing the mask, “but luckily my mum was supportive”.
“This is an act of suppressing students,” she said, adding that she wore a surgical mask to school over the following days without issue.
Masked students and alumni said they had to voice their objection, despite “fears of being arrested”.
A 16-year-old form five student who gave his surname as Chan, said he felt “nervous” about wearing a mask for the human chain, but wanted to conceal his identity. He said wearing a mask was a “basic human right which should not be banned”.
Students from nearby schools came to Hon Wah College to show their support. A form six student surnamed Tang, 17, from Precious Blood Secondary School a few blocks away, joined the human chain.
“You need not be afraid. We stand in solidarity,” Tang said.
Hon Wah College did not respond to inquiries from the Post by press time.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong teachers in the firing line over surge in students joining anti-government protests, getting arrested
- Hong Kong’s school students and teachers are suffering from emotional problems over anti-government protests, survey finds