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Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

School suspends 14 students for ‘disrespectful behavior’ during national anthem and flag-raising ceremony

School suspends 14 students for ‘disrespectful behavior’ during national anthem and flag-raising ceremony

St. Francis Xavier’s School in Tsuen Wan last Wednesday (Oct 5) suspended 14 students from school for three days over “disrespectful behaviors” towards the national anthem and the flag-raising ceremony, while involved students said they were shocked and didn’t breach the national security law.
The news first broke out as allegations circulated online accusing the vice-principal Law Chui-lin of targeting the 14 students, who were eating breakfast on the playground, for disrespecting the school and breaching the national security law.

The allegations also said Law ordered the students to immediately stand at attention when the national anthem was played, awaiting the disciplinary master to arrive and follow up on the incident.

In the latest statement issued Monday night, the school said the suspension penalty came as the 14 students didn’t return to their classrooms or assemble at the playground and performed “disrespectful behaviors” towards the flag-raising ceremony.

“The school always stresses the importance of abiding by the laws and values education on respecting the national anthem and the flag-raising ceremony to nourish students to become responsible civilians,” the statement read.

The school added they had reached out to parents already on arrangements, including online lessons.

However, one of the 14 students insisted he didn’t hear the national anthem playing.

“I was really shocked. I didn’t breach the national security law, and I didn’t hear the playing anthem,” the student who went with the alias of Anthony said.

“It wasn’t until about half an hour later that the school spoke to us about breaking the law. It might involve the national security law or the national flag law.”

Anthony said he didn’t hate the vice principal, but it didn’t make any sense for the school to impose the penalty without evidence. He added that the school should have explained what they had done wrong. He also worried the incident may affect his university application in the future.

The school confirmed police had arrived at the campus at 11.15am the same day to investigate a sign near the school’s main gate that was damaged earlier in the morning. The police presence was not related to the 14 student's suspension, the school said.

The Education Bureau has instructed the school to hand in a report on the incident and will remain in close contact with the school to advise on the issue.

The bureau also pointed to the law on necessary etiquette when raising the national flag and singing the national anthem. Schools should follow up on students’ disrespectful behaviors immediately, it noted.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Chu Kwok-keung, also vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, said the suspension was quite a heavy punishment, and the school should better explain to students.

“The school must ask what causes students’ behaviors before punishing them. Understanding the motive is the first step, and the school should see if the students have any reasonable explanation. The school must have the student admit to wrongdoing willingly. Otherwise, there would be counter-effects,” Chu said.

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