Secondary school principals allow Friday class boycotts

Secondary school principals allow Friday class boycotts

More than 100 secondary schools are expected to see lower attendances as students follow university students in pressing for democracy

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Oscar Lai (left) and Joshua Wong Chi-fung of Scholarism.
Oscar Lai (left) and Joshua Wong Chi-fung of Scholarism.
Photo: Sam Tsang/SCMP

Secondary students are free to boycott lessons in solidarity with university students fighting for democracy, as long as they apply to their schools with letters of approval signed by their parents, about a dozen principals say.

The principals said they were open to allowing freedom of expression among their charges, with some even earmarking a space to accommodate students taking part in the protest.

More than 100 secondary schools are heading for a one-day boycott by students tomorrow, when tertiary students will be entering their fifth day of a week-long "strike" in an attempt to make Beijing rethink its restrictive framework for the 2017 chief executive poll. Student activist group Scholarism, which is helping drive the secondary school boycott, will also be staging its own boycott rally on the pavement of Tim Mei Avenue, near the main rally outside government headquarters in Admiralty.

The individual plans underline a political awakening among the young, with students setting up school-based political reform concern groups.

In Tai Po, Stephen Leung Ping-ki, principal of Hong Kong Teachers' Association Lee Heng Kwei Secondary School, said students must apply for leave with approval letters from their parents. If they wanted to remain on campus while skipping classes, they could stay in an empty classroom or the library, Leung said, adding no applications had been filed.

"We respect different voices," he said. "You cannot ban others from doing something because you don't agree with them."

A dozen other secondary schools expressed similar views.

In Aberdeen, Mira Chow, a Year 11 student at the English Schools Foundation's South Island School, has set up a concern group with a schoolmate.

They would be joined by three other students in boycotting lessons tomorrow, she said.

"I hope the boycott will awaken more people and encourage them to join the fight," the 14-year-old said. "The students' action is only the first step. I hope the movement can develop into workers' strikes and more."

ESF said students were encouraged to express their views on local and global issues through a range of school-based activities and the boycott was not "proving to be an issue" for the foundation.

Meanwhile, Scholarism expects a turnout of at least 100 at its Tamar rally from 10am to 4pm, and 1,500 in an afterschool march between 4.30pm and 6pm.

The group had informed police about the plans, but did not say what it would do after 6pm. The police had approved its public assembly, spokesman Oscar Lai Man-lok said. "Our action will be legal and peaceful," he added.

"Scholarism will not undertake acts of civil disobedience such as blocking traffic."

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