Within the past three weeks our campus is not in peace. For our real democracy, university students boycotted class on 22nd September, and secondary school students also participated on different scales. Tamar became a theatre for civic lecture. However, since the Authority had turned a deaf ear to the pleas of our students, on 28th September students decided to take further action to occupy the forecourt of the Central Government Offices in Tamar, known as “Civic Square” to demand a dialogue with the Authority. So shocking and irritating, protesters were removed fiercely or arrested by the police, which gave rise to the early launching of the Occupy Central movement. At last the Authority fired tear gas at demonstrators, at which we all felt furious, and during that night our Union appealed schools and our colleagues to boycott class. This was the first time that we called for a class boycott since 1989. After one week, we appeal all secondary schools and primary schools to return to class, and continue our democratic education in our classroom. About this development, our President, Fung Wai-wah is now invited to talk with us.
Why Class Boycott?
We all agreed to students’ launching class boycott to fight against the resolution of National People’s Congress Standing Committee and fight for our real universal suffrage. About the struggle, we supported the university students to participate in class boycott because they are all adults and mature enough to think independently. However, we hesitated about boycotting class in secondary schools, because our colleagues also needed to take parents?concern into consideration. Therefore, class boycott was not called for at that moment.
The turning point was the incident taken place on 28 Sep, where our students protested outside Central Government Offices, and wanted to recapture the Civic Square, which is a place now fenced off by the Authority, meaning to stop the dialogue with the People. To remove the demonstrators, the Authority at last fired tear gas 87 times at the weaponless mass and students, at which our colleagues were all irritated, and therefore we decided to call for a class boycott, and appealed our colleagues to express our discontent towards our Authority, and urge our Authority to reply to our students.
Was the class boycott successful?
We saw more than one hundred secondary schools organize different ways of class boycott in answer to our appeal, and lots of teachers take this opportunity to explain to students what was happening, which we think was very timely and appropriate.
From the very beginning, we wondered if the class boycott could succeed under the constraint of school setting. However, we found that both parties, including school heads, teachers and students, could try hard to find a way out and reach consensus on the ways of class boycott, so that the democratic education could go ahead, and the discontent towards the Authority could also be expressed. We appreciate that the democratic education could be flourishing in schools, and teachers and students could have plenty of opportunities to exchange their viewpoints and enhance their social concern. For us, to stimulate students to discuss on the event is much more significant than the number of schools participating in class boycott. We just hope that by the class boycott more members of the public and students would be motivated to pay attention to the development of the whole event. Therefore, we are convinced that the call for class boycott succeeded and achieved a good result.
Moreover, our whole community has condemned our Authority for using inappropriate method to reply to our People. Now by class boycott we have created great pressure to the Authority and urged the government to listen to us.
How to communicate with parents?
Understanding that the parents would be more concerned about their children’s safety and learning, at this stage we only try hard to explain our rationale. Some parents would also be worried about the campus being more politicised. However, we just wonder if our civic life can be separated from politics, and if the de-politicisation can be a remedy to all conflicts. We believe that the most critical matter is to provide teachers and students with sufficient opportunities to exchange their viewpoints towards the incident and discuss on the incident objectively.
Why Return to Class after One Week?
We believe that it is already effective to use the way of class boycott to express our discontent towards the government. However, teachers and parents were worried about students’ learning and therefore they would like students to return to class soon. We consider that our objective of creating pressure to the Authority has already been achieved by class boycott, and therefore our action can escalate to another stage, which is to further enhance our democratic education. Moreover, students’ safety is also our concern, especially when different schools would have different ways of class boycott and some students would take to the streets as their way of protest, which would be quite worrying. During the process of this decision making, we tried our best to communicate with other organizations, and we hope that they could understand our standpoint.
We know that it is difficult to reach any decision without arguments, no matter it was class boycott or return to class, and the final decision was thoroughly discussed among our Council Members together many times. The issue of “Occupy Central” movement and class boycott is so controversial that our society is now becoming more divided. Our union is also divided and confronted with the same situation. It is always difficult and cautious to reach every decision, but it is also inevitable in the process of democratization.
What is our follow-up action?
At the moment, students are so committed in the social event that they would feel emotional and confused. We therefore suggest our school social workers and counselors to provide them with assistance, so that they could grow up after series of events. From the educational perspectives, we encouraged our colleagues to summarize their fruitful experiences of class boycott, and share them with other teachers, since at the moment our colleagues have already looked into different ways of launching class boycott. In future, our representative of the Legco will continue to follow up the whole movement, and support the movement in different ways. Moreover, we will do whatever we can to protect those colleagues and students who have participated in the class boycott, from the suppression by the schools or the Authority. We will never turn a blind eye to it.
Last but not the least, we need to stress that what we are now against is the Government of CY Leung, which has been using fierce and evasive ways to create more conflicts; and not the front-line police, whose difficulties confronted are also understood by all of us. We appeal those influential organizations in our community to urge the Authority to reply to our People, and we want to see the political issues be solved in a political way, but not in a way of force.