The chief executive of Hong Kong decided on Aug. 11 to wade into a debate now roiling the city, by calling for the investigation of a schoolteacher whose impassioned criticism of police on a busy shopping street last month went viral in an Internet video.
By openly coming out against the schoolteacher in a question and answer with the press at the Tin Ching Community Hall, Hong Kong chief Leung Chun-ying may be confirming the suspicions of his critics, who charge him of being a proxy for Beijing and its policies in the city.
The video was published on Leung’s official website, along with other remarks to the press he had given. He was asked whether it was necessary for the chief executive of the city to publicly ask the education minister to prepare a report on the actions of a schoolteacher outside her work hours.
Leung said: “I believe the minister is already doing it. I just required him to give me a report.” The report would assess what “impact” her statement had, he said.
The schoolteacher, Lam Wai Sze, on July 14 scolded the police for several minutes while pointing her finger, accusing them of doing nothing to protect freedom of speech and siding with the Chinese Communist Party, which many Hong Kongers believe is increasing its attempts to encroach on the freedoms they cherish.
Lam was a bystander to an incident where a CCP front group, calling itself the Hong Kong Youth Care Association, had besieged a protest being held by practitioners of Falun Gong, a meditation practice that has been persecuted on the mainland for 14 years, and whose presence in Hong Kong has become something of a thorn in the side of the CCP. At major tourist points frequented by mainland Chinese, practitioners have set up banners and placards showing how they have been persecuted.
On July 14, Lam yelled at the police: “You police are protecting these communist bandits?” and “Don’t think I won’t say it—you’re well aware of what the Communist Party does, such as daily trafficking in organs, and killing people to peddle their organs, which everyone in the world knows about.”
Then, in expressing her incredulity and exasperation at the actions of the police, who stood by while Youth Care Association members blocked off and disrupted the Falun Gong protest, Lam also uttered a curse word.
That was then seized upon by the Youth Care Association, and used in an attempt to discredit her.
And now the chief executive of the city, who was carefully chosen by a committee that was itself carefully chosen by political commissars in Beijing, has asked the Education Bureau to submit a report about whether Lam had violated any ethics codes during her remarks.
Educators and civil rights supporters were astounded that the chief executive would call for an investigation of the schoolteacher, who herself is the recipient of an award for teaching excellence, for moral and civic education, in 2010-2011.
James Hon Lin-shan, the former chair of the Council on Professional Conduct in Education, described Leung’s comments as “ridiculous and childish” in an interview with Radio France Internationale on Aug. 12.
On Aug. 13, the Education Bureau told Sing Tao Daily, a local newspaper, that “Lam’s mistake is not that serious,” and that they would continue to follow the matter, but would not open an investigation.
Lam has kept a low profile since the incident. She is reported to have received death threats, but has also received an outpouring of support.
“Right and wrong in the incident should be discussed,” he said. “While dealing with the Hong Kong Youth Care Association (HKYCA) and Falun Gong, the police tilted the balance in favor of the former. In the Lam Wai Sze incident, the police encircled the crowds instead of separating them. This was very ridiculous, since it only led to a fight.”
He added: “In fact, the police fear the Youth Care Association, and allow them to prevent Falun Gong from displaying their banners, which is in violation of freedom of speech. They’ve been seen verbally abusing the police or even beating them, but the police make no response. This time the police responded violently” to a mere singular curse word, he said.
This eight minute video showing events on July 14, 2013 in the Mong Kok district in Hong Kong was prepared by Hong Kong Epoch Times.
Translation by Amy Lien. Research by Ariel Tian.