We will definitely fight to the end !

Dear Members,

Greetings to everybody. With the Legislative Council resuming its operation, I am resuming my monthly email communication with you. It is with a heavy heart that I greet the resumption of the Council’s operation. First, using the epidemic as an excuse, the Government postponed the election date for at least one year for the very purpose of averting what would otherwise be a catastrophic loss on the part of the pro-establishment camp. As a step further, the Government intends to revise the rules of the game this year, such as allowing extra-territorial casting of votes by Hong Kong people living on the mainland (but not those living elsewhere), so as to permanently consolidate the election advantage of the pro-establishment camp. This is absolute injustice, against which we will resolutely fight.

In the area of education, the challenge confronting us is even more formidable! A primary school teacher – accused of ‘calculated propagation of independence of Hong Kong’ – has been de-registered by EDB. The Headmaster, the Deputy Headmaster and several teaching colleagues of the school have been reprimanded and warned, which was shocking to our society. It should be noted that cancelling a teacher’s registration means that he/she is permanently debarred from teaching. Worse still, it may mean that he/she will henceforth not be able to step into the campus, which is much more devastating than a simple dismissal!

An even more serious problem is the teacher actually did not – as established by HKPTU’s understandings – propagate independence of Hong Kong, not to mention doing so in a calculated manner. The whole incident reflects that EDB’s investigation was conducted solely by itself and conducted within a black-box. Basically, there was no justice. Even the teacher’s request for an oral hearing was rebuffed by EDB. How can we say that justice exists? HKPTU will certainly do its utmost to assist the teacher to secure justice. We will first lodge an appeal, failing which, we will approach the court and initiate a judicial review. We will definitely fight to the end!

In the past, we made use of policies, etc. to solve problems relating to the rights and interests of teachers. Now that the situation has changed, there is a greater need for us to deploy union negotiations and legal means to defend the rights and interests of teachers. The establishment of the HKPTU Legal and Emergency Assistance Fund in the early part of this year reflects such a need in the new situation.

To our teachers, I would say this: Up to now, more than 240 teachers have been subjected to complaints of a political nature. Most of them are innocent. A mere post on the Facebook could well lead to unreasonable complaints. Any teacher may unfortunately ‘get caught’. If you, your colleagues, or your friends become the target of such a complaint, please do not take it lightly but contact the Rights Complaints Department of HKPTU as soon as possible. We will definitely do our utmost to help. You can rest assured that all complaints will be kept strictly confidential.

We will definitely fight to the end Responding to the news
of staff appointments at HKU
Raising a query at Legislative Council about EDB’s procedures for handling complaints against teachers
Assisting schools
recovering study group tour fees
Snapshots Speeches

Responding to the news of staff appointments at HKU

Amid controversies, the Council of the University of Hong Kong approved the appointments of two Vice-Presidents on the evening of 27 October. Before their approval, and responding to media reports, I had pointed out that Professor SHEN Zuojun and Professor GONG Peng were both from Tsinghua University and that President ZHANG Xiang and the two professors had highly similar resumes: all being scholars from the mainland with work experience in the US, and all having taught at University of California, Berkeley. Furthermore, President ZHANG and Professor GONG were both graduates from Nanjing University. All these coincidences give our society the undesirable impression of ‘cronyism’. Universities should be all-encompassing. If scholars from the same background account for as many as half of the top management, the high degree of homogeneity may lead to small-circle thinking, which is not a good thing for the development of the University.

In addition, Professor SHEN Zuojun is the Chair of the Industrial Engineering Department (IED) at Tsinghua University. Online data showed him as a member of the IED Party Committee. Following a reporter’s inquiry, his party committee status on the website was deleted. Why was the data deleted? Is Professor SHEN a member of the Party Committee? This is of crucial importance, because if Professor SHEN is a Party Committee member, he has to obey the Party’s discipline. Will this be contradictory to the purpose of academic freedom in Hong Kong? When working at HKU, will SHEN have to consider the Party’s demands?

Some Court members and student representatives of HKU had publicly urged that the University postpone consideration of the proposal to appoint Professor SHEN as Vice-President (Research), that the University arrange – as was previously done in appointing the President – for Professor SHEN to meet with the University’s stakeholders (teaching staff, students, and alumni) so that Professor SHEN could make clarifications and declarations regarding his political affiliation, and that the proposal for his appointment be considered after stakeholders had affirmed his ability to perform his duties under the principle of safeguarding HKU’s institutional autonomy and upholding academic freedom. Unfortunately, the University did not consider these views and approved the appointment on the very same evening.

Raising a query at Legislative Council about EDB’s procedures for handling complaints against teachers

At the Legislative Council meeting on 28 October, I raised a written question, asking EDB to provide specific procedures for canceling a teacher’s registration, such as details of the professional team comprising directorate staff established by EDB to handle the case, including the team’s membership list and specific workflow. Unfortunately, EBD failed to respond to my question. EDB did not provide the team’s membership list, the number of team members, or the team’s powers. Nor did EDB provide statistics on anonymous complaints and self-initiated investigations relating to teachers suspected of violating regulations.

In response, EDB simply repeated that complaints were handled in a ‘strict, careful and impartial’ manner in accordance with ‘established mechanisms and procedures’. EDB did not provide any reason why the teacher had not been given an opportunity to orally defend himself/ herself. Nor did EDB provide any justifications and reasons for its ruling of professional misconduct.

At present, regulatory matters relating to teachers are predominated by EDB: an executive organisation taking charge of the entire procedure of investigations, adjudications, and the meting out of penalties. More than 60% of respondents in a recent public opinion survey considered that cancelling the teacher’s registration was a political decision. I requested EDB to – by reference to the way in which other professions in Hong Kong including doctors, nurse, lawyers and accountants are regulated – establish an independent statutory body to handle matters including registrations and complaints with self-regulation as the basic principle. Rejecting my request, EDB insisted on the status quo: an executive organisation operating in a black box. On this, I will continue to seek improvements to the current situation so that all teachers involved can have a fair and just opportunity for self-defence.

Assisting schools in recovering study group tour fees

The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled schools to cancel study tours
during the long vacation. Some schools have large amounts of deposits or
tour fees unilaterally confiscated by travel agents. They have no means to
recover them. My office has since February received complaints from 24
schools, involving more than $7.36 million and 3 travel agents. Schools
affected include Government schools, aided schools, DSS schools (Direct
Subsidy Scheme schools) and private schools, involving teachers,
students, and parents of secondary schools, primary schools and
kindergartens: an indication that a wide spectrum of schools are affected.

I, therefore, appealed to the Government and authorities concerned in July, requesting that relevant regulations be tightened up and that punitive actions be taken against the small number of unscrupulous travel agents involved. However, such incidents occurred one after another. On 30 September, I held a press conference with Principal SHUM Yiu-kwong of FDBWA Chow Chin Yau School, one of the schools affected, in order to expose the problem to the public. In addition, letters were sent to the police and authorities concerned requesting them to, soonest possible, intervene and investigate whether the travel agents involved had committed any irregularities or criminal frauds, and to jointly help the schools to recover their losses, so as to protect the rights of study tour consumers.

Vaccination against seasonal influenza

Strengthening protection against influenza has been a key item of concern amid the various Legislative Council tasks of mine. Following my success in securing the provision of free influenza vaccination services in schools, outreach services have also been fully regularized this year for primary schools, kindergartens, kindergartens-cum-child care centers and child care centers. As parents have greater confidence in the collective vaccination of their children in schools and in the coordination of services by the Department of Health, the vaccination rates of school children in the past two years have prominently increased.

In the past, the rate of influenza vaccination among children in Hong Kong was low, with the consequence of schools having to suspend classes when influenza broke out. Nowadays, with the regularization of the provision of vaccination services in schools, the influenza vaccination rate for ‘children from 6 months to 12 years’ has increased from 17% in 2016 to 57% last year. We hope to consolidate and further increase the vaccination rate. In addition, with COVID-19 being rampant this year and since its symptoms are very similar to those of influenza and hence cannot be easily distinguished from the latter, the burden on our medical system will become heavier. Influenza vaccination is, therefore, all the more important.

All along, I have been earnestly practising what I advocate. I have been advocating that the Government strengthen its influenza vaccination services in schools. I hope that the Department of Health will continue to develop and improve its services, including the introduction of a new nasal spray vaccine in recent years – which, when compared with injections, is easier for children to accept – and the digitalization of vaccination records so as to enhance the effectiveness of our vaccination services.

Visiting a special school to observe the resumption of classes

29 September was the date on which secondary schools, primary schools and kindergartens in Hong Kong could eventually resume classes ever since the Lunar New Year! On that day, I visited Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Kwan Fong Kai Chi School to observe class resumption in a special school.

There are various types of special schools. There are day students and boarding students. They have different educational needs, and they have slightly different school timetables. Arrangements in different classrooms also reflect their respective educational needs. Arrangement of seats in classrooms also reflect the need to observe social distancing. Some of the seats are free-standing.

I discussed with Principal LEUNG Wing-hung challenges confronting special schools, including large class size, low proportion of teaching assistants, and the lack of continuing education opportunities for teachers. While paying attention to mainstream education, we should not neglect the importance of special education.

Publication of teaching materials centralized by the authorities

At present, People’s Education Press (PEP) of the mainland has jointly with Macao compiled several textbooks. In the future, PEP will continue to explore effective ways for the mainland to cooperate with Hong Kong and Macao in the compilation and publication of textbooks.

Textbooks in Hong Kong have all along been compiled and published by private publishing houses – with their content being prepared in accordance with the school curriculum framework compiled by the Curriculum Development Council – and are freely selected by schools. If PEP is to publish Hong Kong textbooks, a more reasonable approach is for it to compete on an equal footing with other publishing houses so as to ensure fair competition. If the publication of textbooks is centralized by the authorities, this would, I am afraid, amount to a complete overhaul of Hong Kong’s system.

Class resumption day: Visiting a primary school

On 23 September, Secondaries 1, 5 and 6; Primaries 1, 5 and 6; and upper classes of kindergartens could eventually resume classes. On that day, I visited SKH Holy Cross Primary School in Kai Ching Estate to observe the resumption of classes.

Epidemic prevention measures on campus were of course indispensable. In addition to such measures as temperature checks, disinfection of hands before entry into the school, the school had also installed a small manually operated uncovering device on the side of toilet boards to obviate the need for students to touch them (and hence avoid getting contaminated). In addition, each student was given an epidemic prevention kit with their name printed on it. Students were required to inspect and replenish anti-epidemic materials on a daily basis, so as to develop in them the good habit of managing personal health and hygiene.

In order to assist Primary 1 students in adapting to life in a primary school, additional teachers were assigned to support them and the first term examination had been replaced by assessments at different stages.

28 October 2020: Legislative Council Meeting
Cancelling a teacher’s registration: lack of justice for EDB alone to be responsible for investigations and adjudications.

28 October 2020: Subcommittee on Proposed Senior Judicial Appointments
Whether it is possible to hire overseas non-permanent judges and the maintenance of Hong Kong’s judicial independence are intertwined

25 September 2020: Finance Committee
Resource allocation under the anti-epidemic fund distorted: concern over subsidy received by tutorial schools being particularly small.

Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen
‧For enquiry and feedback, please email to Office of Legislative Councillor IP Kin-yuen (email:[email protected] )
Office of Legislative Councillor Ip Kin Yuen (Education Constituency)
Corresponding Address: Room 919, Legislative Council Complex, 1 Legislative Council Road, Central, Hong Kong
Tel.: 3468-7222  Website: http://www.ipkinyuen.org.hk > Facebook