The Education Bureau’s actions are expected to have a chilling effect on teachers in the former British colony. They will self-censor by guessing how the government would view certain issues and, when unsure, opt for silence to avoid trouble, according to Ip Kin Yuen, a legislator for Hong Kong’s education sector. “It’s not a question of whether [what teachers say] is right or not, but whether it’s to the liking of the government or not,” Ip said on a radio show on Oct. 6. “Everyone will worry over everything, afraid of stepping out of line, and we won’t even know how to walk in the future. Our education will be very difficult and increasingly weak.”
The Education Bureau started reviewing the teacher’s case following a complaint it received in September 2019. From June last year, when the pro-democracy protest movement began, to this August, the bureau received 247 complaints about misconduct of teachers. Out of 204 cases it has reviewed, the bureau determined 73 were unsubstantiated, and it issued reprimands, warnings, or other advisories to teachers in 70 other cases. (The remaining cases apparently remain unresolved.)
Ip is also vice president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union. On behalf of the dismissed teacher, he submitted an appeal on Oct. 12 to the bureau appeals board. The appeal process will involve a five-member committee composed of representatives from the education and legal sectors and the government.
As Beijing’s tightening grip squeezes out freedoms in Hong Kong, a student’s answer to the worksheet from the controversial class suggests what the city could become without freedom of speech: “It may not progress as quickly, because if each person has reservations about speaking, we may not know our own shortcomings and not be able to learn from them.”