Young Post spoke to five teachers at today’s march held by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union. According to the Union, more than 22,000 people took to the streets to show support for the mostly-young anti-extradition protesters. Police said the turnout peaked at 8,300.
The event theme was, “Protect our Next Generation, Speak for our Conscience.”
Both the Amber Rainstorm Warning Signal and Thunderstorm Warning were in force as teachers in black marched from Chater Garden to the Government House, the residence of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
When asked about why she participated in the event despite the pouring rain, Leung, a 60-year-old retired secondary teacher said, “It’s just rain. It’s nothing when compared to our young protesters who are still determined to protect our city even though they’re being shot all the time.”
She also recalled the two-million-people protest on June 16, saying Hong Kong had never experienced a demonstration as big as that one before. “The proposed amendment on the extradition law must’ve been unacceptable to all Hongkongers. Yet, the government's response was very disappointing and infuriating.”
Regarding the proposed class boycott, which is set to begin on September 2 and would see students skipping school every Monday in support of the anti-extradition protests, Leung said she didn’t have a clear stance yet. “I want to look into what exactly the students are doing at the boycott first.”
A Liberal Studies and Economics teacher, surnamed Lee, told Young Post, "It's the students' own decision to go on strike. I won't prevent my students from exercising their own freedoms and showing their stance.”
The 34-year-old secondary teacher, who took to the streets with her husband and young daughter, said she was playing her part as an educator to show solidarity to the young protesters on the front line and safeguard the next generation.
"[In] the education field, people from various professional fields have already shown their support for the movement. But the government is still ignoring public opinion," she said.
Lee added that the government's lack of response has torn society apart and destroyed her relationships with some of her former students, who are now working for the police force. "I used to have a very good relationship with them, but it is no longer the case now because of the opposite stance we hold."
She also hoped that her students, upon graduation, would be able to exercise their own judgment on the rights and wrongs of the movement.
If required by her school, she would try to make arrangements for students going on strike in September. "I might use my lesson time to tell the students about what has been happening in Hong Kong, as well as teach them what it means to have a conscience."
When asked if there was anything she’d like to say to her students, she said, “I hope that my students won't blindly follow instructions of the authorities. Even if they must, they could still make a decision on how to carry out their duties, just as [the] police can decide where to target when asked by their seniors to fire rubber bullets."
Luk, 29, a kindergarten teacher, also showed up to the march. "I've joined the march today to tell the government and law enforcers that they cannot shut the youth down by punishing them with violence," she told Young Post.
Seeing the police's "inappropriate and excessive use of force" as well as their "selective enforcement," Luk admitted not knowing whether she could tell her students - some as young as two or three years old - that the HK police could protect its citizens.
"I could only tell them there's good and evil in every person, and how to distinguish good from evil."
Luk added that she would "respect and support" youngsters who opt for the class boycott. "Teachers and principals should also ask themselves why the students must take this step."
During the march today, two student protesters stood along Lower Albert Road and held up a sign that said, “Sorry for having you worry about us over the past two months”. They bowed at the teacher protesters and chanted,” Teachers, add oil! Hongkongers, add oil!”
Lau, a primary school teacher who teaches General Studies, told Young Post, “We’re here to protect our students… I want to let them know they’re not alone. We, teachers, understand what they’re doing and we will walk by their side.”
The teacher in her mid-30s also showed support for the class boycott. “They’re doing this to fight for what they want, and this is a decision that they make... I also don’t think they care about how the school might punish them, or how skipping school will affect their studies, because they’re focused on building a better future for Hong Kong. And I support that.”
Another participant surnamed Chan, 31, said, "I am here today mainly to oppose the wrongdoings of the government. As teachers who educate students about right and wrong, we need to lead with action."
The English secondary teacher added that he "respects [his] students' decision" if they choose to go on strike next month, but also expressed understanding for the Education Bureau's strong opposition on the class boycott.
"We teachers would have to discuss with schools and parents to see whether special arrangements are needed for students boycotting classes," he said.'