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China Daily

HongKong> Opinion> Content
Monday, January 13, 2020, 22:39
Teachers’ Union guilty of unethical conduct
By Tony Kwok
Monday, January 13, 2020, 22:39 By Tony Kwok

Many organizations and prominent anti-establishment activists have contributed to unprecedented turmoil in Hong Kong in the last seven months, but the most reprehensible culprit has to be the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU). This is borne out by the arrest of over 2,000 students on riot-related offenses, with one as young as 11 years old! We must find out what has inspired all these primary school students to risk their futures to join a marauding mob to throw bricks and gasoline bombs, to vandalize shops and destroy public infrastructure such as traffic lights and dig up pavements for bricks to use as missiles against police. And do they really understand what they are protesting against, or are they just being swept up by the passion of the moment and succumbing to a herd-type mentality? The answers are not hard to find in the concurrent arrest of 80 teachers; in particular, a lecturer at the Education University of Hong Kong. The lecturer is supposed to teach and set an example to future teachers. So what chance do we have in seeing a new batch of ethical and morally correct teaching graduates emanating from this university? It’s clear that if we want to clean up this corruption at its source, we would have to start with the Education University!

It’s obvious this intellectual corruption of our young people starts with associating everything negative with the Chinese mainland, thereby designating our motherland as an object of hatred. The teachers who charted this malevolent course of study got away with it because young minds are like a piece of white paper with no preconceived notions about anything. The first imprint on it will have the most enduring effect, as the first impression about anything new is everlasting.

We have seen student exercises in kindergarten comparing rivers on the mainland with those in the United States, pointing out that the rivers on the mainland are filthy and those in US are crystal clear! While some mainland rivers are indeed polluted, just like many streets in the US are dirty and ill-maintained, wouldn’t it be more meaningful to say also that the mainland is making an all-out effort to clean up the pollution caused mostly during its headlong rush to develop? Another way of seeing the absurdity of this is that it would be just as valid to say many American cities are blighted by homeless people, many of whom are also drug addicts or petty criminals, whereas this shameful phenomenon is rarely seen in China. The point is that our youngest students are being imbued with the notion that everything about the mainland is deplorable.

Hong Kong people familiar with the city’s education system have been sharing examples of school-based propaganda online. In observing such materials, psychologist and educator Chris Lonsdale said: “I have seen school textbook material that is presenting a particular viewpoint as fact, which is basically propaganda slamming China. So, there is strong evidence of brainwashing from a very young age. I think some of the schools have played a major role in creating a twisted mentality in our young generation.” He is very concerned that this form of educational bias prevents young people from developing the critical thinking and judgment skills required to fully understand what is happening in the world.

Urgent efforts must be made to identify any illegal financial benefits received by the teachers, school management, writers, publishers and activists

Let’s take another exercise in primary school decrying our police officers as “black cops” who administer “police brutality” to protesters. Sadly, many of our primary school students do not have the habit of reading or watching news reports. If they did, they would know that dozens of fatalities and many times more injuries have been reported in half a dozen overseas riots involving far fewer participants than in Hong Kong. Yet not a single fatality has been attributed to Hong Kong police action! So why promote such blatant distortions to our impressionable young people? No wonder our first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, said school liberal studies courses are a total failure. The seeds of this insidious program of distortion were planted with the decision to exempt textbooks from being vetted by the Education Bureau. The result was that teachers are given carte blanche to teach whatever they like. This obviously includes their personal political views, however extreme they might be, as there is no supervision! It is therefore a most welcome move that the Legislative Council is setting up a select committee to examine school textbooks to identify and remove inappropriate content. This is an urgent task that must be conducted with speed and care, starting with letters to all students and their parents to encourage them to report all suspected malpractice in confidence to the select committee. The inquiry should ideally be completed as soon as possible as the results might affect the LegCo election later this year. For the same reason, urgent efforts must be made to identify any illegal financial benefits received by the teachers, school management, writers, publishers and activists. Incidentally, in most leading democracies, it is illegal for those campaigning for public office to receive foreign financial support. Let us hope this restriction is also applied and strictly enforced in Hong Kong.

It is now clear that corruption of our young people comes not just from foreign sources, but locally as well. Therefore, the Education Bureau should make it a priority to expel, if not de-register, all teachers shown to have attempted to brainwash our young students. It is therefore reassuring that the secretary for education has committed his bureau to investigate all substantiated complaints about unethical teachers. Since all public servants are subject to public complaints and investigation, and if substantiated, appropriate punishment, there is no reason to exempt teachers from this oversight.

So far, 123 complaints against teachers have been received. Rather than addressing this serious matter in a rational manner, the HKPTU immediately launched an attack on Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, describing his attempt to review some teachers’ methods as “white terror”. The HKPTU’s deputy chairman, Ip Kin-yuen, also a LegCo member representing the education sector, said the Education Bureau should not accept anonymous complaints. This is comparable to banning whistleblowers, many of whom have affected some of the most significant changes in many countries for more than 200 years.

Take the Independent Commission Against Corruption as an example. A big part of its success is traceable to public complaints, both anonymous and otherwise. While the ICAC does not encourage anonymous complaints, it will investigate them if there are facts contained in them that can be checked and evaluated. Indeed, some of the ICAC’s most sensational successes are attributed to anonymous complaints. The need and desire for anonymity were emphasized in a case investigated by the ICAC in which one of the principal witnesses was murdered in Singapore by triads sent from Hong Kong. In the current wanton destruction and violence against fellow citizens where most of the principal perpetrators are clothed in black from head to toe, anonymous tips may prove to be the most effective means to bring these perpetrators to justice. By the same token, anonymous tips by parents and students in identifying unethical teachers should not only be acceptable but even encouraged.

It should be noted that there is no such thing as “white terror”. If teachers conduct themselves in a responsible manner, they have nothing to fear. As for those who come under suspicion, they would be given ample opportunities to defend themselves. However, if the allegations are substantiated, a deterrent punishment must be handed down. We must not allow our next generation to come under the nefarious influence of unethical and devious teachers.

To put pressure on the Education Bureau, the HKPTU recently held a rally in Edinburgh Place to protest against alleged “white terror”. The organizers claimed that 20,000 people turned up, while police estimated that number to be around 2,500. Any sensible person could see that it is impossible for Edinburgh Place to hold 20,000 people. This is a typical blatant lie that is reflective of an unethical union. Thus, the HKPTU should be more accurately renamed The Hong Kong Unethical Teachers’ Union!

The author is an adviser of Our Hong Kong Foundation, a council member of Chinese Society of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, and a former head of operations of the ICAC. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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