Hong Kong’s education chief Kevin Yeung Yun-hung reminded students that forming a human chain outside a school could constitute an unlawful assembly.
Hong Kong has been rocked by four months of anti-government protests triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill and campuses have not been immune as hundreds of students have formed human chains outside their schools since the start of term in September.
Yeung, the Secretary for Education, also urged students to take care of their own safety when joining events outside the school gates.
“[Students] also need to pay attention to who they are taking part in an event with,” he said. “Some events which were staged outside schools had many participants other than students. Some may be alumni, but some people’s identities were unknown.”
With a new law banning face coverings at public assemblies coming into effect last Saturday, the Education Bureau has asked schools to remind students not to wear masks on or outside campuses. They were also asked to report the number of those wearing masks to school.
Yeung defended the move, saying schools were asked to give a “rough impression” of the number of those wearing masks on Tuesday to get a picture of pupils’ emotions so as to provide suitable supportive services.
The data collection process was continuing as of Friday, Yeung said. If a lot of pupils were seen wearing masks on campus, the bureau would contact the school to find out if “many students were sick or whether there were other reasons”.
Yeung also said any student convicted of an offence had “paid the price” by receiving a penalty and that society should accept these youngsters and help them rehabilitate.
Nearly one-third of protesters arrested since the social unrest broke out in June were aged under 18, government officials revealed on Thursday.
Yeung said that by law children under the age of 15 had the right to receive an education and if they were unable to attend school for some time the government would find the students a suitable place to continue their studies.
“I hope everyone can understand that from an educational aspect, we wish to lead every youngster and student on the right path. As long as students are willing to learn, we are willing, and our education system should give him or her a chance to learn,” he said.
Two teachers were suspended last month over controversial online comments related to the protests, as the bureau had received multiple complaints over teachers’ conduct since June.
Yeung said he did not rule out that some educators were not “performing well enough” but that teachers and principals were under immense pressure in the face of a divided society.
“Most educators remain very professional and have tried to do their best,” Yeung said, adding that the bureau would try to understand the situation at schools where complaints were received and urged society to “have more trust” in teachers and schools.