Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen has claimed that the lax attitude of education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim cost Hong Kong the opportunity to host an international summit on education. In response, a press secretary said Ng was “bewildered” by Ip’s claims.
Ip, who represents the education sector, was speaking at a Legislative Council debate about the annual budget, when he proposed slashing Ng’s remaining wages before the end of his term in July.
During the speech, Ip slammed Ng’s frequent official overseas tours. Ng travelled abroad 17 times during 2016-17, though Ip noted that he missed the highly respected International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Berlin last March.
Ip said the summit’s host, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), had been asking him whether Ng will attend. “Why did they not ask Ng but they asked me?” Ip asked.
The summit is an important event for the education industry as education ministers from dozens of countries often attend. Ng attended the 2014 and 2015 sessions.
Records of the summit showed that, in 2014, Hong Kong had expressed an interest in hosting the 2017 summit. Ip said that Ng verbally expressed an interest in 2015.
“The host said [in Berlin last year] that, originally, the summit should have been hosted in Hong Kong this year, but they have not heard any news from the Hong Kong education secretary, so it could not be done,” Ip said. “Ng did not make any reply at all, and so an official application was not submitted.”
The summit was ultimately held in Scotland this year.
“It did not have to be hosted in Hong Kong. But this attitude – of not replying to anything, and making the international community [wonder] why Hong Kong expressed an interest but did not follow up. This created a very negative image, this brings shame upon Hong Kong,” Ip said.
A press secretary for Ng told HKFP that the Secretary for Education’s Office had – in fact – notified the OECD in January 2016 that Ng would not attend the summit held in Berlin in March.
“Maybe the honourable Ip did not know about this, but to make an accusation without proof, we express disappointment,” the reply said.
With regards to hosting the summit in Hong Kong this year, the reply said Ng expressed interest during the 2015 summit, but – at the time – there was no “substantial discussion” about the 2017 summit.
The bureau will continue considering hosting international education conferences in Hong Kong with regard to actual circumstances, the reply added.
Ip said that Ng and his subordinates had amassed travel expresses of HK$3.16 million – more than double that of Ng’s predecessor Michael Suen Ming-yeung, who spent HK$1.43 million on official trips abroad.
Ng was still organising trips as of last month, Ip said.
Ip also accused Ng of sharing an online article smearing him.
He said there had been a new wave of attacks against him since April. The article gave a timeline of events claiming that he, and his group the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, had been “poisoning children.”
“We are used to these smears. I only knew later that Ng was involved in sharing this message,” he said.
“This would be a scandal, but I know his term is almost ending, so I don’t want to waste my time,” Ip added, without elaborating.
“I believe my colleagues in the education industry have their own fair judgement. Anyhow, I believe this is the first time in history that a principal official has attacked a lawmaker like this.”
Ng’s press secretary said: “There have often been different messages circulating online and on social media – the Secretary is bewildered over the honourable Ip’s accusations.”
Update 18.52: This article was updated to include an extended response from the Education Bureau.