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Sunday, Jul 05, 2020

Education Bureau says it needs to act against Hong Kong teachers found guilty over protest-related misconduct to ensure students’ interests and defend the image of the profession

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen urges bureau to stop punishing teachers based on assertions made in anonymous complaints. But bureau stresses it needs to take proper action to ensure students’ interests and defend the image of the profession

The row over the handling of complaints against teachers involved in ongoing protests has continued with officials insisting that actions should be taken to ensure students’ interests amid criticism that some educators were penalised even before proven guilty.

The Education Bureau revealed earlier that about 80 teachers and teaching assistants had been arrested over the ongoing protests, while it had received 123 protest-related complaints against educators, with wrongdoings confirmed in 13 cases.

But the bureau has been criticised for treating the complaints unfairly, and education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung was accused of imposing “white terror” by warning to disqualify headmasters who failed to handle the complaints properly during an interview with a mainland media last week.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen wrote to the bureau this week, urging it to stop punishing teachers based on assertions made in anonymous complaints.

He added the authority had done “grave procedural injustice” by concluding that teachers had breached their duties without making any direct inquiries.

Ip also urged the authority to withhold only half the salaries of the interdicted teachers instead of suspending their salaries in full.

But the bureau stressed it needed to take proper action to ensure students’ interests and defend the image of the profession.

“If the schools take no action, allowing teachers involved in serious misconduct or moral issues to continue to stay in touch with students, how will their parents rest assured?” the bureau said in a statement.

It said the teachers under inquiry would be given more than one opportunity to respond to the accusations they faced, rejecting Ip’s claim that some teachers had been considered guilty of misconduct without being given a chance to defend themselves.

The bureau also said it was duty-bound to follow up even anonymous complaints if the accusations involved speeches or acts that breached moral standards or that could be perceived to endanger the safety and healthy development of students.

“Any move to ignore or downplay a teacher’s misconduct or illegal speech will only damage the image of their profession,” it said.

The authority also said stopping payments in full to teachers involved in criminal court proceedings or allegations of serious misconduct was in line with the bureau’s management codes and the Employment Ordinance.

Yeung last week warned during an interview with online news outlet Shanghai Observer, operated by Communist Party newspaper Jiefang Daily, that school principals might be axed if the bureau found them not handling complaints against teachers properly.

Under the Education Ordinance, the bureau’s permanent secretary may withdraw a principal’s appointment approval for failure to perform duties satisfactorily, or for being unacceptable to most of the school’s managers.

The ongoing protests, which were triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill in June last year, have over the months morphed into a wider anti-government movement demanding greater democracy and accountability of police.

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