Thousands of Hong Kong professional teachers and supporters have stormed the Edinburgh Place in protest against the government and Education Bureau over its handling of cases involving teachers accused of protest-related misconduct.
Many in the crowd on Friday wore masks as students, university lecturers, pro-democracy lawmakers, also came to show support. At the same time, they chanted slogans saying “Say no to white terror” and “Educators, unite as one”.
The demonstration was precipitated by a clash of words between the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, and the Education Bureau.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union represents about 85 percent of teachers in the city, and have been trading barbs with the Education Bureau since December over the treatment of teachers in cases linked to the anti-government movement.
A secondary school teacher said many of the felt angry about the vast number of their colleagues facing complaints and suspension in recent months, especially cases where teachers had only expressed their personal views on social media.
It would be recalled that the Education Bureau has earlier reported it received 123 protest-related complaints of teacher misconduct and round 30 teachers in Hong Kong may be penalized for misconduct related to the pro-democracy protests.
The government body also revealed earlier that about 80 teachers and teaching assistants had been arrested over the ongoing protests.
The Education Bureau further told schools to consider suspending any teacher who was arrested over unlawful assembly and possession of dangerous weapons.
The row over the handling of complaints against teachers involved in ongoing protests has continued to escalate with Hong Kong professional teachers insisting that actions should be taken to ensure students’ interests. In this view of criticism that some educators were penalized even before proven guilty.
The organizer of the demonstration estimated about 20,000 participated while Police put the number at around 2,500.
Hong Kong professional teachers accuse the Bureau of unfairness
The Hong Kong professional teachers union has accused the Education bureau of being unfair and not giving teachers a chance to defend themselves against the charges dealt against them.
The teachers union stated that before being notified that their cases had been substantiated, teachers had been punished.
Fung Wai-wah, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers Union president, has openly said the bureau was “spreading white terror” and the government was blaming teachers for encouraging students to take to the streets.
Another anonymous teacher stated that he believed the Education Bureau was threatening principals when it said they could be removed from their positions if they did not cooperate with investigations on teachers.
Meanwhile, a fourth-year university student surnamed Chan, said she wanted to thank teachers for their hard work and joining hands against the government who has been trying to suppress their voices.
Fung noted that Hong Kong teachers should be able to freely express themselves when they are not at work as they are entitled to freedom of speech as well. This includes going to protests or making comments on social media.
He further stated:
As a member of the education sector, we should stand up and speak out.
Education Bureau remark
The Education Bureau reacted in a written statement accusing the Hong Kong professional teachers union of a loss of professionalism.
According to the Bureau, they have repeatedly explained the complaints process, but the union continues to twist facts and spread worry among teachers.
The Bureau noted it’s the union that is inciting white terror.