Date
12 December 2017
Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and chairman of the Basic Law Committee, will deliver a 50-minute speech on the Basic Law on Nov. 16. Photo: Xinhua
Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and chairman of the Basic Law Committee, will deliver a 50-minute speech on the Basic Law on Nov. 16. Photo: Xinhua

Education Bureau draws flak over Basic Law seminar ‘invitation’

The government has been criticized for “inviting” secondary schools to arrange for their students to watch the live broadcast of a speech on the Basic Law to be given by a senior Beijing official next month.

Some lawmakers said the arrangement will do little to help students gain a better understanding of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

According to a schedule sheet circulated online, the government will host a seminar on the Basic Law on Nov. 16 at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai as part of the activities marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, hk01.com reports.

The Education Bureau has been holding seminars from time to time in different schools to train teachers how to make students gain a better understanding of the Basic Law.

In the November event, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will deliver the opening speech and Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung will give the closing remarks.

The main guest is Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee and deputy secretary-general of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, who will spend 50 minutes talking about Hong Kong’s role and mission, as a special administrative region of China, under the Chinese Constitution and the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

It is said that a number of government secondary schools, after receiving the “invitation” from the Education Bureau, have decided to cancel two classes for students on that day to enable them to watch Li’s speech live. Several sponsoring bodies of local secondary schools are said to have declined the invitation, according to sources.

In response to media inquiries, the bureau admitted it did invite different sponsoring bodies of local secondary schools to arrange for the live broadcast of the seminar in their respective campuses.

The bureau also said it encouraged government secondary schools to make similar arrangements for the seminar, but purely on a voluntary basis.

Fung Wai-wah, president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, said schools and teachers will be under pressure because of the “invitation”, adding that he does not see the necessity of canceling classes just for Li’s speech.

Legislator Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education sector and acts as vice president of the union, said he thinks it’s a good thing to let students listen to what Li has to say, but he does not expect Li to provide any new points of view except reiterating Beijing’s stance.

It is rare that students are asked to watch live broadcasts of speeches on campus, Ip said.

What’s important about the curriculum of civic education in schools is to make students aware of different views on the matter and nurture their capability for independent thinking.

So providing them with Li’s viewpoint alone can hardly achieve the purpose, he said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Dr. Helena Wong Pik-wan also said Li’s speech will be a one-way interpretation of the Basic Law and that is far less effective than having students conduct discussions in class.

She said a seminar like that will not help young Hongkongers in recognizing their Chinese identity, which can only be enhanced by solving problems resulting from political conflicts and policies.

Meanwhile, New People Party’s leader Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is also a member of the Legislative Council’s education panel like Wong, said Li’s speech should not be considered as brainwashing.

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TL/JC/CG

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