Since the start of the anti-extradition bill movement in June, a total of 1,596 people have been arrested for various offenses related to the protests, according to data released recently by the police. Among them, 464 are students.
Before the new school year opened in September, students accounted for 25 percent of all the arrested protesters. Since early September, however, that percentage has soared to 38 percent.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung revealed in an inter-departmental press conference on Thursday that 2,379 people have been arrested for unlawful actions related to the protests as of 5 a.m. on Thursday, with 750 of them, or nearly one in three, aged below 18, including 104 aged below 16.
During clashes between police and protesters at the Prince Edward MTR station in late August, a 13-year-old student was arrested after police found two petrol bombs and two lighters in his personal belongings.
At first, I was under the impression that only university students would be keen on getting involved with political and social issues.
Yet a substantial number of secondary and even primary school students have also participated in the protests, amid the political storm arising from the extradition bill saga.
As I have mentioned before, there are three stages in a person’s course of education throughout his life.
The first stage is family education, in which parents play a decisive role that others are unable to intervene with any means.
The second stage is school education, with the quality of teachers being a very crucial factor, along with academic atmosphere, school ethos and the standard of different hardware facilities of schools determining the effectiveness of school education.
And the third stage is social education, in which every individual is constantly influenced by public opinion in society.
In my view, the behavior of many of the students who have taken part in the protests has completely manifested the reality that at least part of the school education in Hong Kong is a failure.
One indication of such a failure is the lack of basic courtesy seen in many student protesters, who are often caught swearing during the mass demonstrations.
And apart from verbal abuse, these students are even physically attacking people of different political views or innocent citizens, not to mention blocking road traffic massively and other actions resulting in inconvenience to members of the public.
Another indication of the failure of our school education is that some teachers have brought politics into secondary and even primary schools.
I believe it is absolutely inappropriate for primary and secondary school kids to participate in politics, as they are often immature mentally and inexperienced that they haven’t formed their own mature outlook on the world and values.
While some radical university students are seizing each and every opportunity to advocate thoughts of violence, many new students are often indoctrinated with a particular set of political beliefs during orientation camps, whether they like it or not.
It is even rumored on the internet that in some kindergartens, teachers refer to police as corrupt cops in class.
The fact that some teachers in our schools are so biased sends a chill down my spine.
Whether or not our teachers are aware that they play the role of a “soul engineer” in school, the objective reality is that what they say and how they behave in class are shaping their students’ ideology and character.
In other words, in order to be a good and qualified teacher, a person must have not only sufficient academic knowledge but also, even more importantly, high standards of morality and integrity that allow them to set a good example to their students.
Society should ponder why there has been a surge in the number of students taking part in violent demonstrations and marches after September.
Could it be because more and more students have been encouraged, incited or even misled into joining these activities after they returned to school on Sept. 1?
Are our teachers playing any role in instigating our young people to participate in violent protests?
I believe as the highest government branch charged with managing teachers and school heads of our kindergartens as well as primary and secondary schools, the Education Bureau (EDB) definitely owes the public an answer to these questions.
And there is absolutely no room for the EDB to pass the buck when it comes to probing these matters.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 5
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]