Primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong are reporting a grand “exodus” of their students this year after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed a national security law on the city last summer that diminished individual liberties, including in the classroom.
Hong Kong’s Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) recently polled 180 schools across the city and found that hundreds of pupils plan to disenroll from schools by the start of summer vacation this year, which typically begins in mid-July.
“More than half of schools said more than ten of their students were leaving, while four schools noted an exodus of more than 50 students during this semester,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported May 26.
PTU director Fung Wai-wah told AFP many of the students’ parents plan to emigrate overseas with their families citing concerns for their safety. The national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the CCP’s rubber-stamp legislature last summer established a special national security police force that has arrested at least 47 people for participating in peaceful political activities previously allowed under Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, or Basic Law, which protected freedom of speech and assembly.
Pro-China elements within Hong Kong’s government have extended the civil liberties crackdown to the city’s schools, requiring them to “educate” students about the national security law, which created four new criminal offenses punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. The Hong Kong Education Bureau issued new guidelines this year requiring children as young as six to learn about the new national security crimes, which include terrorism, subversion, secession, and collusion with foreign forces.
Hong Kong schools are also required to “monitor students and teachers alike for any sign of dissent in or outside the classroom,” according to PTU director Fung Wai-wah.
“Decisions in education are now being made based on the whim of the … government, rather than on professional considerations,” Fung said. “Subjects and teaching materials are being changed all the time, there is interference with the assessment process.”
“Teachers can lose their teaching license if someone complains about their professional conduct, so they are under huge political pressure,” he added.
PTU Vice President Ip Kin-yuen told AFP on Wednesday some parents are taking their children out of Hong Kong schools “in the middle of the academic year.”
“The people leaving are evenly distributed across different age groups, so it is really affecting the structure of schools, and causing a lot of headache for management,” Ip said.
PTU polled 1,178 teachers and headmasters from Hong Kong “kindergartens, primary, secondary, and disabled schools from April 29 to May 5 this year” and found that roughly “20 percent plan to resign or file for early retirement,” Hong Kong’s Standard newspaper reported May 10.
“Among those who wish to leave, 133 or about ten percent will have left by the end of this school year. Another 85 people plan to do so in the coming two school years,” the poll revealed.
“A majority said they wanted to leave due to increasing political pressure on them. Others cited dissatisfaction with Hong Kong’s general situation and its education policy,” according to PTU.