Hong Kong police have recommended installing security cameras in classrooms to help prevent crime, but lawmakers and school principals say such monitoring could make pupils and teachers uncomfortable.
The Education Bureau on Friday said it was up to schools to decide whether to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras but reminded them to take into account the views of different stakeholders.
Police made the suggestion on their new “SafeCity.HK” website, which was launched on Tuesday and offers crime prevention tips for schools, hotels, residential sites and retail areas.
The website outlined 21 “best practices” for schools, including eight recommendations for setting up CCTV cameras in various areas on the premises.
“The security of schools is very important. Take care of the safety of young students!” the website said.
The eight locations are classrooms, main entrances, corridors, staircases, car parks, reception areas, places storing valuable property and the school perimeter.
Police also offered advice on storing chemicals safely and installing security measures such as fences and motion sensors.
Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu Chak-yee on Tuesday said promoting community engagement was one of the force’s major strategic directions to prevent crime.
“The concerted efforts and collaboration of police, citizens and various community organisations also [play] an important role in maintaining law and order and ensuring that Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world,” he said.
A police spokeswoman said the recommendations would help the public and different organisations prevent several types of crimes such as theft and burglary.
“The organisations concerned should consider how to adopt the recommendations based on the actual situation,” she said.
Tang Fei, a lawmaker and a secondary school principal, said teachers and students would feel nervous with security cameras in the classrooms and they might also worry about their conversations being recorded.
But Tang said the cameras could be useful in preventing violence and theft in classrooms. He urged schools to consult all stakeholders before adopting such measures.
Chu Kwok-keung, a lawmaker representing the education sector and a primary school principal, said the monitoring system might lead to teachers and pupils feeling uneasy, adding that installing security cameras was not needed on most campuses.
“If the individual schools have serious student behaviour problems or theft, they could consider setting up CCTV cameras after fully consulting every stakeholder,” he said. “Some parents may be unhappy about such measures and may take action against the plans.”
In 2021, some pro-establishment lawmakers suggested installing surveillance cameras in classrooms and called on authorities to step up the monitoring of teachers who made “subversive remarks” against the government.
Secretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin, then undersecretary for education, said at the time it was up to individual schools to take measures they saw fit to “prevent crime”, though monitoring efforts would have to be in line with existing privacy laws.
A spokeswoman for the Education Bureau on Friday said it was up to schools to decide whether to install cameras.
“Schools have to consider [the monitoring system’s] necessity, rationality and openness and obtain the [views] of stakeholders to strike a reasonable balance between security and privacy,” she said.
She reminded schools to comply with personal privacy regulations and relevant guidelines on setting up CCTV cameras issued by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.
A spokesman for the commissioner said any individual or entity that uses CCTV cameras to identify specific people or compile information about them must comply with the requirements of the privacy law.