Students can discuss the idea of Hong Kong’s independence, says the education minister, as long as the discussions are within the limits of the Basic Law.
After a meeting with officials in Beijing, Eddie Ng Hak-kim spoke about the topic on Thursday.
The Education Bureau in Hong Kong has warned that teachers could lose their jobs if they encouraged students to talk about independence.
But Ng left questions unanswered as to whether teachers would be disqualified if they cited the pro-independence camp’s views in liberal studies classes. Ng said he exchanged views with ministry officials on independence “invading schools”, and they supported the Hong Kong government’s stance on not allowing advocacy on campuses. He also clarified that the city’s government would handle the issue and decide related policies on its own, without directions from Beijing.
“Students can discuss anything if they are under the guidance of teachers,” Ng said. “[This topic] should be discussed from the position of the Basic Law.”
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Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said it wasn’t a good thing to only listen to one side of the story and not the other.
“In any discussion, we should take a rational and objective attitude to tell students about Hong Kong’s constitutional and legal status under the Basic Law,” he said.
Basic Law expert Alan Hoo said he would submit a proposal asking Beijing to clarify whether people supporting independence for the city would be committing the crime of endangering national security.
“Will such Hongkongers be arrested once they cross the border into Shenzhen? We need to let young people know,” Hoo said. He added that if student groups were found to share the agenda of groups such as the Hong Kong National Party, they should be declared as illegal organisations and be investigated.
Choi Yuk-lin, vice-chairwoman of the pro-Beijing Federation of Education Workers, said she did not understand what Ng meant by “from the position of the Basic Law”. Legislator Ip Kin-yuen, of the pro-democracy Professional Teachers’ Union, shared the same confusion.