Beijing supervision needed for HK education chief: Chen Zuoer

January 09, 2015 10:21
Chen Zuoer (inset) says recent developments have shown up lacunae in Hong Kong's education system. Photos: AFP, CNSA

Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said on Thursday that Hong Kong's education secretary should be under the supervision of Beijing at all times as recent developments showed that there were problems in the city's education system.

"Why was the education sector in such a mess during Occupy movement? How have the young people who were just babies at the handover time become those on the front-line and storm into military camps and government buildings with UK national flags in hand?" Chen said at a forum in Beijing, according to Ming Pao Daily.

Hong Kong's top official in charge education should take responsibility and do a good job, making use of the wealth and resources available and correctly guiding school sponsoring bodies, consulting groups and educators so that they can properly nurture the youth, said Chen, who is currently the chairman of Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies.

The association hosted a seminar in Beijing this week to discuss the issues of Hong Kong youth.

A spokesman for Hong Kong's Education Bureau, was meanwhile quoted as saying that the department will keep working hard to strengthen students' understanding of the Basic Law and the "one country, two systems".

Chen's comments in Beijing have fueled concerns that the central government will try to meddle in Hong Kong's education affairs.

Legislator Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education sector, said Clause 136 and Clause 137 in Basic Law clearly state that education is one of the fields that are subject to Hong Kong's own policies. The education secretary needs to report only to Hong Kong's chief executive, and not others, the lawmaker said.

Any indications from Beijing that it wants tighter control over Hong Kong officials would make people in the education field very worried, he said.

Ip said Beijing appears to have a wrong reading of the situation in Hong Kong. If the youth have changed their views on the mainland in recent years, it is not because of lacunae in school curriculums or teaching, but because of the influence of multiple social events in China and news filtering out through the internet, he said.

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and a member of Basic Law drafting committee, said it is understandable that Chen’s remarks would spark a debate. But supervision is not unreasonable, given that Beijing has the final power on appointment of top Hong Kong officials, he said.

Cheung Yui-fai, a senior teacher of Liberal Studies at a local school, was quoted as saying that any move toward "brainwashing" type of education will only push Hong Kong youth further away from the local government and the mainland.

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