22 February 2019
At a Legco panel hearing on Saturday, a primary school student holds signage that calls on Education Secretary Eddie Ng (inset) to step down. Photo: RTHK
At a Legco panel hearing on Saturday, a primary school student holds signage that calls on Education Secretary Eddie Ng (inset) to step down. Photo: RTHK

Eddie Ng under fire for early exit from meet on student suicides

Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim has come under fresh criticism from parent and teacher groups, this time for walking out midway from a key hearing on matters related to student suicides. 

On Saturday, Ng left the deliberations of a Legislative Council panel mid-session, apparently unhappy at the remarks and angry comments directed at him by some of the meeting participants.

Apple Daily reports that Ng faced deep questions at the Legco’s education panel hearing after the Education Bureau (EDB) kept insisting that student suicides have nothing to do with the city’s education system.

During a two-session public hearing to discuss the final report of the Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides, Ng is said to have left the proceedings half way.

After leaving the meeting, the education chief made a guest appearance at a pro-establishment organization event, according to reports.

At the start of the public hearing, the Legco panel’s vice-chairperson Ip Kin-yuen announced that Ng had notified the panel secretary that the education chief would not stay for the entire proceedings.

Ip wanted to get an explanation from Ng but he was stopped by panel’s chairperson, Ann Chiang Lai-wan, who belongs to the pro-establishment camp.

Several participants at the hearings repeatedly chanted “Explain! Explain!”, demanding that Ng give a satisfactory answer.

Ng responded by saying that he would be attending a work-related meeting, and that deputy secretary Michelle Wong Yau Wai-ching — a “very senior official” — will take questions on his behalf.

It came as the Legco panel was conducting a hearing on the final report submitted by the Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides.

In the report, which was submitted to the government last November, the committee described the reasons for students’ suicide as “complicated” and said the cases had no direct relation to the education system.

The conclusions sparked intense criticism, with representatives from more than 60 organizations as well as some lawmakers and other individuals saying the report doesn’t reflect the ground reality.

Chan Chi-chung, a member of the Progressive Teachers’ alliance, said the EDB has allowed the existence of a “killer” education system, and that Ng should resign to take responsibility.

One concerned parent, a person named Ho Suk-yee, said at the hearing that one should ask this question: does the problem lie with the children, or should it be the adults who keep saying that exams are stress-free?

She directly accused Ng of being unfit to be the Education Secretary, adding that she hopes the official will step down from his post.

Buddhist Chi King Primary School Vice-principal Wong Fung-ming, who has been in the education sector for over 30 years, said it is hard to believe that the stress and suicides have nothing to do with the education system.

Many participants agreed on three things: Ng should step down, there need to be a change within the education system, and a multi-bureau unit must be in place to handle student suicide cases.

Two students also attended the LegCo meeting, according to Ming Pao Daily News.

A primary three student surnamed Wong was quoted as saying that that he feels a lot of stress and that it weighs him down every day.

Another student, a girl surnamed Chan, said she was lucky to have switched to an international school and that she now understands what “happy learning” is.

Chan wondered why such system is not possible in traditional schools.

Coming back to Ng’s early departure from the meeting, it has come to light that he made his exit in order to attend a ceremony of the Hong Kong Volunteers Federation, a pro-government body, in Wanchai.

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