The Legislative Council has approved a plan to relocate a school for students with emotional and behavioural problems following a controversy related to the school’s planned neighbour in Tuen Mun.
Tung Wan Mok Law Shui Wah School is set to be relocated from Shek Pik on Lantau Island to Tuen Mun, as the primary school’s facilities have been in use for 50 years and cannot be rebuilt on the site due to land lease conditions.
The proposal received opposition by Tuen Mun’s Yan Oi Tong Chan Wong Suk Fong Memorial Secondary School with its principal previously labelling the Lantau school’s students as triad members, drug users and sexually promiscuous in a letter of appeal to lawmakers. The secondary school – which will neighbour the relocated special school – apologised after facing heavy criticism for selectively citing an Education Bureau document.
Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim broke his silence on the incident on Monday, urging the LegCo to support the move, as the Lantau school was one of the seven local special needs schools.
“This controversy was caused by some school document only citing [certain] words from the most serious and extreme examples, leading to sweeping statements, causing misunderstandings,” Ng said.
Ng said that the consultation for the relocation plan was the same as the normal consultation process, and that it was introduced to schools in the Tuen Mun area in February. The district council was consulted in March, receiving no opposition. The bureau also arranged tours to the Lantau school to better understand the situation.
Ng denied the consultation was conducted too late, saying that the bureau only received the draft plan and details of the new school at the end of last year. He said the social services committee of the Tuen Mun district council only had its first meeting in March.
After the consultations at the district council, seven Tuen Mun district councillors from the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions and New People’s Party publicly opposed the plan by launching a petition to the LegCo. However, lawmakers from the parties supported the move at the Panel on Education on Monday.
New People’s Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said his party “absolutely agrees with and appreciates the ideals of schools for social development”.
“Many students – because of family problems and some complicated reasons – cannot study at a normal school temporarily – it does not mean that their qualities are lower,” Tien said.
He said that he heard some were concerned that it was not ideal for a special needs school to be situated next to a mainstream school, but he later said that he “could not find any reason not to give 100 percent support” as the bureau’s officials answered all of his questions.
‘Compassion and care’
Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing also said his party would support the move.
“Society should have more compassion and care… this has been the stance of the Federation of Trade Unions for students with special needs all along,” he said.
Pan-democratic lawmakers have been supporting the move as have joked about the change in stance of the pro-Beijing parties.
“This fight is over, it is alright to switch stances, but switching in this way was very funny,” Labour Party’s Cyd Ho Sau-lan said.
After the approval of the panel, the relocation plan will be forwarded to the Public Works Subcommittee and the Finance Committee around June to approve its funding, according to Undersecretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung.