20 February 2019
Robert Chow Yung should have criticized former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (inset), who called for class boycotts. Photo: HKEJ,
Robert Chow Yung should have criticized former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (inset), who called for class boycotts. Photo: HKEJ,

You, sir, should step back and apologize

Robert Chow has crossed the line.

He probably doesn’t know it or simply refuses to admit it, but either way, his reporting hotline project to scare students into pulling a planned class boycott is crumbling around him.

The funny thing is that groups allied to his pro-Beijing Alliance for Peace and Democracy are running away from the idea.

And Hong Kong schools, purportedly the beneficiaries of the duplicitous scheme, are rightly telling him to back off.

Who wouldn’t?

The alliance set up the hotline to encourage citizens to report anything related to the boycott and a planned civil disobedience campaign by Occupy Central.

The purpose, according to Chow, is to protect schools and students not joining the boycott and give their parents peace of mind.

In fact, it’s to name and shame the boycotters and their schools and keep them from a wider protest campaign by Occupy Central.

What would happen if people were to report on the students and their schools?

Probably very little if the reporting is confined to certain generic information.

But what if the scheme was used by certain groups as an excuse to collect specific information about the students, the schools and their activities?

That would be a serious security and privacy concern. There’s a word for it: spying.   

On Thursday Tang Fei, vice president of the pro-establishment Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers and a vice principal of Heung To Secondary School (Tseung Kwan O), questioned the scheme and said his group is withdrawing support for it. 

Other school officials said they have the knowledge and experience to deal with a class boycott and called the scheme an unwelcome interference in school affairs.

Diocesan Boys’ School headmaster Ronnie Cheng warned the alliance that “whatever happens in DBS is our own business”.

Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, an Anglican church which operates more than 30 schools, is also pushing back, telling the alliance it can handle its own situation.

While some schools have said they neither support nor oppose the boycott, many are willing to help students attend class and catch up with lessons for those that join the boycott.  

The fierce reaction to the alliance shows Hong Kong schools value their independence and will fight any perceived threat to it.

They also are likely to be better informed about the historical context of a peaceful protest such as a class boycott.

Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, for instance, participated in a class boycott in 1919 to support the May 4 Movement that resulted in an upsurge of Chinese nationalism.

Chow and his alliance would be wise to step back and apologize.

Related stories:

Boycott hotline backers seeking way out

Let’s not return to the dark days of the Cultural Revolution

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EJ Insight writer

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