Secretary for Education Eddie Ng has been on nearly three times as many overseas visits than his predecessor, spending over HK$3 million, Legislative Council documents have shown.
Responding to the legislature’s enquiries, the Education Bureau published a list of Ng’s 54 work trips during his five-year tenure on Thursday. He mostly visited cities in mainland China, but also travelled to countries such as New Zealand, Switzerland and Peru.
Ng went on a total of 17 official overseas trips over the past year. His most expensive – an eight-day trip to Peru and the United States last October – cost over HK$400,000. Most of the costs were related to air tickets.
The purpose of the trip was listed as “to attend the 6th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Education Ministerial Meeting in Lima, Peru and to visit San Francisco, USA for education exchanges.”
A government bulletin from October stated that he visited the Microsoft Technology Centre in Silicon Valley, watched demonstrations of the application of technology in education, and had a meal with Hong Kong students and alumni from Californian universities.
Triple the trips
Ng went on almost three times as many trips as his predecessor Michael Suen. Local newspaper Apple Daily reported in 2012 that Suen, who departed from his five-year tenure that year, went on a total of 20 trips.
The visits do not include personal vacations. In November 2015, Ng refused to attend a meeting on the controversial Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) school tests because he was on a personal trip overseas.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui criticised Ng for his frequent overseas trips. “A bureau chief can go on overseas visits, but he must explain to the public what he has achieved and taken back,” he told Apple Daily.
“I don’t feel he has taken anything back to Hong Kong from his overseas visits. In the Legislative Council he has never once mentioned his overseas experience.”
Visit to Nanjing
Ng responded at the legislature on Friday, saying that the government has introduced many new policies that require research through an international network and cooperation with international experts.
He added as an example that after a visit to Nanjing, he better understood how teachers in the eastern Chinese city found it difficult to teach Chinese history, because of Nanjing’s special history.
“Nanjing was the historical capital of many Chinese dynasties,” he said. “Hong Kong became a colony because of the Treaty of Nanking.”
This response invited ridicule from fellow pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan. “This is such an excellent response,” she said. “Don’t forget there was also the Rape of Nanking.”
“So if you go to Beijing, will you learn about things related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre?”
Plagued with poor popularity ratings, Ng said in February that he would retire upon the end of his term this year.