- Education minister Kevin Yeung says wrongdoing has been confirmed in 65 of 107 cases after initial investigations
- He says the bureau will act against any case of hate speech or provocative action by a teacher - irrespective of which side is being targeted
Breaches have been found in about 60 per cent of more than 100 protest-related complaints against teachers, Hong Kong's education minister revealed on Wednesday, citing initial investigation results.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said that, between June and December last year, his bureau received 147 complaints of teacher misconduct related to the ongoing anti-government unrest, and initial investigations had been completed in 107 cases, of which wrongdoing had been found in 65.
Of these, 33 cases have been initially substantiated, pending further review or explanation from the teachers. The remaining 32 completed cases have been followed up by the bureau, with 13 teachers either issued warnings or condemnation letters, and 19 given advisory letters or verbal reminders.
Yueng said about 80 teachers and teaching assistants had been arrested for offences related to the protests.
Hong Kong has been roiled by more than seven months of social unrest, triggered in June last year by opposition to the now-withdrawn extradition bill, before evolving into a wider anti-government movement seeking greater democracy and police accountability.
The minister said many of the cases involved hate speech and insults, including comments made on social media, and the teachers involved were of various political stances.
Teachers warned their personal remarks online are subject to regulations
"We have received complaints from both 'blue' and 'yellow' sides. But, if the remarks involve hate speech or insults, we think it's wrong, no matter which side a teacher is targeting," Yeung told reporters.
The pro-democracy Professional Teachers' Union (PTU), which represents about 85 per cent of the city's teachers, earlier criticised the bureau for not providing clear guidelines on what constituted "hate speech" or "provocative acts".
Yeung said the bureau was considering providing examples of complaints to teacher training institutions and schools, for future reference.
He said that, apart from acting on the complaints received, the bureau would also follow up on cases involving any lapse in teachers' professional conduct.
"If such cases are reported in the media, we may also ask the school principal to investigate," he said.
One of the complaints was about a teacher from Tak Sun Secondary School in Ma On Shan, who was suspended for two weeks earlier this month for referring to demonstrators as "cockroaches" in class.
Undersecretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin said the bureau had asked the school to submit a report on the incident.
"We will study the report to consider if follow-up actions are needed," Choi said.
Teachers stage rally against handling of protest-linked complaints
Tang Fei, vice-chairman of the pro-establishment Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, urged the bureau to handle all complaints in an effective, fair, and just manner.
Education sector lawmaker and PTU vice-president Ip Kin-yuen said some of the teachers who sought help from the union claimed they had only made the remarks privately, such as in the form of comments on social media which were available to their friends only.
"If these remarks were only for (the teacher's) friends and won't affect students under normal circumstances, that should not be viewed as a direct violation of professional conduct," he said.
But Yeung said a teacher's remarks made in the private domain should be followed up because that reflected his or her value judgment and personality.
"A teacher's behaviour inside classrooms is important. But even when the teacher is outside the classroom, society will still have high expectations of him or her," he said.
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