A student at a Tin Shui Wai school who planned to hand out leaflets relating to Hong Kong independence outside the premises was stopped by the school and brought inside to meet with management. The student then appeared in front of the press, alongside teachers, claiming that he was not put under any pressure.
The student, surnamed Leung, was part of a student localist group at the ELCHK Yuen Long Lutheran Secondary School. The group originally planned to hand out leaflets after school– off premises – at around 11am on the first day of term.
A student surnamed Wu of the group told news site HK01 that Leung had been stopped by teaching staff and ordered to meet with school management. Since Leung and the 500 leaflets they had planned to distribute were being held by the school, Wu said the event could not take place. He added that the action amounted to suppression.
Amid a media scrum at the school, two students of the group were escorted away by two women with their arms over the students’ shoulders. Other students recognised one of the woman in black to be a school chaplain.
The school’s vice-principal Tam Kin-fan at first denied holding any student and told Ming Pao that there was no one handing out leaflets. But half an hour later, he admitted to inviting a student of the localism group to meet in order to understand his needs.
“We have been talking to him during the summer break about his needs – to educate him – there is no punishment involved,” he said.
But he did not directly answer whether any discussion of independence was allowed in the school.
At around 3pm, Leung appeared in front of the press with Tam and another teacher. In a slightly wavering voice, he said that the teachers expressed concern during the meeting in.
“The atmosphere of the meeting was good, there was absolutely no pressure,” Leung said. He repeated the phrase, and said that he was not told what to say.
Leung initially said the group had been allowed to hand out leaflets inside the school grounds during breaks, as management were concerned about their safety outside the school. He added that his group may choose other methods to discuss the city’s independence from China, such as school broadcast announcements, or speaking with students after school hours.
The student was then led away as the teachers present said his parents said it was time for him to leave. However, when Leung returned for a second interview, he said the school did not allow leaflets or political advocacy on the premises. He apologised for the rash statement in the first interview.
Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim has said that schools may reach out to regional education officials or even the police’s public relations branch to ask for support if the distribution of leaflets on Hong Kong independence near school premises disturbed students.
Ng visited a primary school in Tin Shui Wai on Thursday, where he reiterated that schools have the experience to handle the independence debate.
When asked about the appearance of phrases such as “honoring academics and upholding use of force” on leaflets, Ng warned of the potential advocacy of violence.
“Parents and teachers are very worried if students will be misled when they are not mature enough, that they may cross the line and break the law, affecting their whole lives,” he said. “We understand that teachers have a big responsibility.”
Last week, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said there was “no room” for the discussion of independence in schools.