Chief Executive Carrie Lam has sparked strong criticism after appointing a leader of a pro-Beijing education group as the new deputy head of the Education Bureau.
Choi Yuk-lin, 50, former principal of the Siu Sai Wan campus of Fukien Secondary School, was named undersecretary of education on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The government also announced the appointment of 10 undersecretaries and eight political assistants.
Lam was accused of pushing national education in the school curriculum with her appointment of Choi.
Choi was vice chair of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers (HKFEW), which published teaching materials on national education that led to mass protests in 2012.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) said in a statement that Choi’s appointment was a slap on voters in the eduction functional constituency.
It accused Lam of breaking the mutual trust built by the government’s additional annual spending of HK$3.6 billion on education.
The HKFEW, on the other hand, expressed full support for Lam’s decision.
Pro-democracy political group Demosistō criticized Choi for having never directly responded to issues such as patriotic education and replacement of Territory-wide System Assessment with Basic Competency Assessment.
It said it is worried the Education Bureau might again sponsor HKFEW to publish materials on national education.
Demosistō said about 17,000 people signed an online petition over the past two months objecting to Choi’s appointment.
Lawmaker and HKPTU vice president Ip Kin-yuen, who beat Choi in the education functional constituency in last September’s Legislative Council election, said the union is not against national education or Choi’s political stance, only that the government has not come up with a good reason to justify Choi’s appointment.
With strong opposition from the education sector and the public, the new government is likely to have difficulty in implementing its education policies, Ip said.
Meanwhile, Choi, who quit her post at HKFEW on Monday, said she will make an effort to communicate with those in the education sector who oppose her.
Calling Choi a figure well known for her “deep red” political background, Democratic Party lawmaker James To was quoted by Apple Daily as saying the appointment of Choi suggests Lam may be even more determined than her predecessor CY Leung to push for national education.
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