Let’s Proceed with Caution
— Talk with Fung Wai-wah

PTU News Reporter

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CY’s governance was a total failure after he has been taking office for one year, which has already aroused widespread grievances among members of the public. Our survey also demonstrated that most of our members from different sectors of the education field were dissatisfied with CY’s educational policies. Fung Wai-wah, who has taken the office of PTU President for four years, has been confronted with the change of the government and his withdrawal of candidature in the Legco election, and we believe that our members would also be concerned with these issues. Fung was now invited to talk with us about these, and the experiences that he has had during this 4-year presidency.

Short-term and in a rush!

During his presidency, Fung who worked with the officials of two terms of government, described that the two Chief Executives had no long-term planning and visions on the education. “Michael Sun, the former Secretary for Education, only prescibed short-term medicine to deaden the pain, and Eddie Ng, the current Secretary for Education would try to resolve the conflicts in a rush only when an educational issue had been aggravated and escalated to a social one amid the atmosphere of public grievances, which can be illustrated by the examples of the issue of national education and the recruitment of pre-primary and primary school students.” Fung further complained that the current government liked playing a numbers’ game and therefore its legitimacy has been further undermined. The Secretary has announced that there were 240 thousand kindergarten places in Hong Kong, and it was sufficient to cater to the local need and that of the cross-boundary students. However the real number of the school places for allocation turned out to be only 180 thousand. The Bureau has also stated that there were 4,500 existing Form 1 vacancies, but recently the number has reduced to 2,600 all of a sudden, which has triggered off suspicions among our colleagues, whether it was only their trick of diluting the crisis of school closures in the sector of secondary schools.

CY Leung failed to honour his election pledges on education in his first Policy Address. Despite CY’s emphasizing the importance of education all the time, Fung pointed out that CY had even cut the Budget on education and addressed the sector’s requests in an unyielding manner. “In view of the drop of the population of secondary school students, more than 200 school heads were forced to protest and express their standpoint by wearing a black shirt, which led the government to make concession by introducing a proposal of gradually reducing class size. However it was only a medicine to kill the short-term pain.” Fung frankly put that since the Government turned a deaf ear to our pleas, we would need to fight for every request. Fung further warned that the whole sector of education was now confronted with many turbulences, and the Government should address those issues very soon, like the introduction of 15-year free education and the employment of junior teaching staff. We hope that the Government should make long-term planning on education, and the sector needs to be in solidarity to resolve the crisis.

No room for hesitation

Reviewing these four years of presidency, Fung found the withdrawal of candidature in last Legco election the most unexpected. “I had handed the nomination, and everything was well prepared. Very accidentally, several days before the end of nomination period I found a personal health problem.” Fung remembered that even though making a decision was very difficult, there was no room for hesitation. We could do nothing but change the nominee immediately so that PTU could still guarantee a seat in the Legco and the power of democratic camp would not be weakened. He thanked again the Council and the Senate of PTU, “all the preparatory work for the election was switched within those few days and started from scratch. We had to unite together to overcome the difficulties facing us.” The final number of votes obtained in the election proved that our colleagues trusted PTU and recognised our pragmatic approach and the road towards democracy.

Colleagues’ support for my struggle

Fung told us that during the period of his recovery, many colleagues had conveyed him wishes in different occasions. Many friends whom he knew or didn’t know also left him heartwarming messages on the PTU website to cheer him up. He thanked those friends for their wholehearted words and supports during his most difficult days, which also became his strength to fight for PTU and the sector of education. According to Fung, his health condition was now more stable, and he only needed to undergo a regular exmination every three to six months. Since council members handle council affairs in a way of teamwork and Fung had resigned from many other non-PTU-related capacities, he could now more concentrate on the union affairs and those Council members could also facilitate him to do so. More encouraging was that Fung’s family members would also render support for his mission. “My wife understands and supports me, and my son and daughter now spare more time to accompany me. I treasure my family life, and love to travel together with my family when we have free time.”

After Fung’s withdrawal of candidature in the Legco election, Ip Kin-yuen was elected lawmaker of the sector of education, who is however not the PTU head. We wonder if Fung could have sufficient channels to fully grasp the latest educational policies and political development. However, Fung was not worried about it, since council members of PTU who come from different educational areas, could facilitate him to keep abreast of the development of the field. Through the close cooperation and enhanced communication with Ip, he believed that the educational issues could be fully grasped and further discussed with the government. Definitely the information provided by our members is also very essential, and therefore Fung would continue to talk with our colleagues through the tea talks so that he could better understand the difficulties facing the front-line teachers.

To proceed with caution

Last but not the least, a difficult question that we raised to Fung was how PTU should be positioned amid the further polarised social and political atmosphere. According to Fung, PTU should first consider how to balance the interest of different layered members and different social interests. Therefore he would listen to as many different opinions as possible and strive to enhance our transparency as much as possible so that our members would better understand our position and direction. Finally, Fung concluded that we should carry on our jobs in a pragmatic way, and follow the tactics of Mr Szeto Wah: to proceed with caution.