Date
17 December 2017
Numerous secondary school students visited the Occupy sites while classes were suspended. Some stayed for the duration of the movement. Photo: Reuters
Numerous secondary school students visited the Occupy sites while classes were suspended. Some stayed for the duration of the movement. Photo: Reuters

Govt ‘acted outside law’ in suspending classes during protests

The Hong Kong government acted beyond its legal powers when it suspended classes at the onset of the recent Occupy protests, an activist website says.

Classes in all schools in Wanchai and Central and Western districts were suspended on Sept. 29, the morning after police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse a massive crowd of protesters in Admiralty.

The official reason given was to safeguard students’ safety in the face of disruptions to traffic and public transport by the protesters — which Webb-site Reports said failed to supply a legal basis for the government’s action.

“You’ll notice the sleight of heavy hand there, conflating transport disruption with ‘student’s safety’,” the website said. 

After examining the relevant legislation, it concluded the government lacked the legal power to order district-wide class suspensions and “acted outside the rule of law”.

Nearly three months of attempts by the website to get clarification from the government elicited an official reply that said the Education Bureau “took the view that there might be danger or risk of danger to students studying in the schools within the affected areas if classes were not suspended”.

However, the website said, “none of the school premises was close to Admiralty”, and some were kilometers away.

It criticized the government for attempting to justify its action by “quoting selectively” from the Education Ordinance a provision that allows classes to be suspended in the case of danger posed by bad weather.

“Bad traffic” is not the same thing as “bad weather”, the report said. “If anything, slower traffic reduces road deaths and injuries, so it is not a safety issue either.”

The website said, “Ironically, one of the effects of the government pronouncement was to allow thousands of students from 34 secondary schools time to attend the protests in Admiralty.” 

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RA/FL

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