PTU News Reporter
The Education Bureau said earlier that it was considering penalties for teachers who have been complained against and teachers who have been arrested over the recent protests. The penalties could include warnings, reprimands, or even deregistration. It added that teachers who were involved in serious crimes should be immediately suspended and all cases would be vigorously processed. Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said later that principals who supported investigated teachers might be reconsidered from a management perspective and subsequently disqualified.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) called a press conference last month (19th December), in which it stated most cases it had received only concerned teachers’ expression of opinion in their private spheres. At the same time, the Education Bureau has severely violated procedural justice from investigation to adjudication. The PTU maintains that the Bureau’s determination of teachers’ private opinion as professional misconduct and claiming such misconduct could lead to deregistration is unacceptable and amounts to suppression of the education sector. Vice-President of the PTU and lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen also said that Yeung’s claim to disqualify principals directly put pressure on schools. Coupled with accusing teachers of speech crimes, such claim spreads White Terror in the education sector.
Teachers Should Not Be Found Guilty of Professional Misconduct for Remarks in Private Spheres
The PTU has received more than 20 requests for assistance from teachers since August. Among the 17 cases that concerned teachers’ comments made on social media platforms, nine were found to be substantiated by the Bureau. Some involved teachers had restricted their social media posts to ‘friends only’ and these posts were not made during work hours. It is clear their intention was to express their opinion in only their private spheres, a right granted by the law of Hong Kong. Without substantial evidence of effects their personal opinions have on teachers’ professional conduct, namely remaining objective and neutral when performing duties, the bureau declared teachers’ expression of personal opinions within their private spheres amounted to professional misconduct and even openly said consequences could include deregistration, trampling on the teaching profession. The PTU reiterates such practice is unacceptable.
Education Bureau’s Means of Investigation Violates Procedural Justice
In five cases directed to the PTU, teachers reported that they had never been contacted by the Bureau during the investigations. Without providing teachers with any information or allowing them to defend themselves, the Bureau found involved teachers guilty of professional misconduct. Some complainees have reached out to the Bureau to enquire about the nature, objective, procedures, and consequences of the investigations. In response, without providing such information, the Bureau stated that, in case the complaints were found substantiated, follow-up actions would be taken according to existing procedures and practice after consideration.
In addition, all complainees who sought assistance from the PTU were complained against anonymously. According to the Guidelines for Handling School Complaints 1.3, as part of the Project on Enhancement of Complaint Management in Schools, schools should not handle anonymous complaints in general. It is also stated that schools should request complainants to provide identity documents for verification purposes before considering if such complaints should be handled. The PTU questions whether the Bureau has verified the identities of the complainants and the Bureau’s standard in handling anonymous complaints.
PTU: Teachers Should Remain Professional and Unite against White Terror
In regards to Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung’s claim to reconsider and disqualifying principals who support investigated teachers, the PTU holds that the Bureau’s continuous suppression of the education sector spreads White Terror. Schools and principals were demanded to comply with the government’s stance and political missions. The PTU calls for all teachers to remain professional and unite in defending principals, teachers, and students’ rights. At the same time, teachers who receive related complaints should seek help from the P