Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim has dismissed criticism that he chose to sit in his car and play with his smartphone rather than meet some students and activists who had staged a protest over the weekend.
Ng was accused of taking refuge in his car for about 30 minutes on Saturday after the vehicle was surrounded by protesters who were calling for, among other things, abolishment of the controversial Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) for local students.
The incident happened after Ng attended an anniversary celebration at the Queen Elizabeth School Old Students’ Association Tong Kwok Wah Secondary School in Tin Shui Wai on the morning of March 19.
As Ng was preparing to leave, he was accosted by protesters. Rather than engage with the activists, the education chief sneaked into his car and tried to get away from the scene, according to reports.
Students then blocked the car in protest, prompting Ng to remain in the vehicle. He was seen sitting with his legs crossed and his eyes firmly glued to his mobile phone.
Ng took out some documents to read at one point, and checked the time on his watch several times, turning a deaf ear to the chants by protesters.
The protesters, who were around a hundred in number, were demanding that Ng come out of the car to receive a petition on education-related issues.
Some of the activists had also raised slogans that Ng should step down from his post.
Around 20 police officers arrived at the scene as the standoff continued for about half an hour. The officers then formed human chains to allow Ng’s car to leave.
Following the incident, Ng, through a secretary, sought to justify his actions, saying the decision to remain in the car was made in view of the situation.
His top concern was ensuring safety of all the people present there, he said, adding that it is regrettable that a school event was disrupted.
He lashed out at the protesters, saying that blocking roads and surrounding people’s cars is not the right way to express one’s opinions.
Ng later said during the tenth anniversary of the Hong Kong Woman Teachers’ Organization that he is unhappy that some people are making the local education system the scapegoat for every social issue.
The education chief said that he communicates with teachers, students, parents and principals on a daily basis and that over 40 schools have participated in the enhanced edition of the TSA, which he insists is a good evaluation tool.
Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education functional constituency in Legco, was quoted as saying by RTHK on Sunday that Ng was wrong in not getting off his car and listening to the students.
The official’s handling of the incident on Saturday was poor, he said, suggesting that his actions will be deemed as arrogance and lack of empathy toward students.
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