Under Increasing Political Pressure, 40 Percent of Hong Kong’s Teachers Intend to Leave Education Sector

May 18, 2021 Updated: May 18, 2021

After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) forcibly implemented the Hong Kong National Security Law, the education sector in the financial hub has also become a target of “rectification.”

Hong Kong teachers have been disqualified or dismissed in a series of incidents because of their remarks on their city’s political situation. An atmosphere of terror is in the air. About 40 percent of teachers have said they intend to leave the education sector in Hong Kong.

Fung Wai-wah, president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, said on his website that the push by the city’s education bureau for curriculum reform according to Beijing’s requirements, the unfair handling of complaints, and even requiring CCTV in classrooms, have increased political pressure in the education sector.

On May 5, the union conducted an online survey of 1,178 secondary, primary, kindergarten, and special school teachers and principals in Hong Kong. The results showed that 19.2 percent of the respondents had plans to resign or retire early, and 21.1 percent had no specific plans but were inclined to leave. That’s about 40 percent of surveyed teachers that said they intend to leave the education sector.

Of the 474 respondents who said they were intending to leave, 71.1 percent cited “increased political pressure” as the main reason for leaving. More than half of these teachers, 55.3 percent, also said they were dissatisfied with Hong Kong society, and 38.6 percent said they were dissatisfied with  local government’s education policies.

Most of the respondents who said they would stay in Hong Kong’s education sector were affected by practical life considerations such as staying with their family in Hong Kong (58 percent), not being able to afford to leave (53.3 percent), and being “used to life in Hong Kong” (43.9 percent).

Some interviewees reported among their reasons for leaving having their words and actions are restricted both inside and outside the classroom, with politics overtaking the profession in the current political environment, with some groups or individuals making political criticisms against the education sector.

There were also teachers who said they believe the quality of education in Hong Kong is in a downward spiral, with non-education professionals in charge who are ignorant of the industry, a chaotic administration, and no respect for frontline teachers such as those who are involved in the arts and liberal studies.

In addition, the questionnaire revealed that among those who intend to leave, 47.7 percent are those with 21 to 30 years of teaching experience.

Fung expressed concern that if Hong Kong’s experienced teachers were to leave, there would be a shortage of manpower and the quality of education in Hong Kong would suffer severely. He urged the government to improve its governance and end political interference in the education sector.

Teachers Accused of Creating Political Cartoons

In fact, since the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law, the education sector in Hong Kong has also been targeted. One after another, teachers have been disqualified or dismissed for remarks that crossed Beijing’s red line.

The Hong Kong Education Bureau announced on April 30 that two more teachers were disqualified. One of them, a secondary school teacher, was found guilty of professional misconduct by opposing the extradition bill that included mainland China. As of the end of April this year, four teachers in Hong Kong had been disqualified.

Mr. Wong, a middle school general education teacher with the Facebook account “vawongsir,” started drawing political cartoons on social media in May 2019. He was anonymously reported to the government last year for expressing his political view. The education bureau ruled in April that the complaint against Wong for “professional misconduct” was established, saying his cartoons made unreasonable accusations against the government or police, such as “The rule of law is dead” and “Collusion between police and gangs.” The university refused to renew Wong’s contract, citing “insufficient funds.”

Ip Kin Yuen, vice president of the Professional Teachers’ Union, criticized the ruling as unreasonable. He said that there is nothing wrong for teachers, who are citizens, to express their views on social issues or government policies on social media.

Such freedom of expression is not allowed in mainland China under the totalitarian rule of the CCP but until now, it has been the norm in Hong Kong.

Wong said in a Facebook post late last month that with the CCP’s politics having infiltrated Hong Kong society, one day, it will be difficult to teach on campus. He said there is no doubt that in the eyes of the government, those who do not support the government are “ruffians,” and that it is not long before teachers in Hong Kong are required to swear allegiance to the Basic Law and be vetted.

Teachers Dare Not Talk About Tiananmen Square Massacre

Wong Joek Si, a middle school Chinese teacher, told The Epoch Times that he was not surprised that 40 percent of the teachers are wanting to leave. In fact, many of his colleagues had been preparing to leave Hong Kong from 2019 to 2020, and many did after the passage of the Hong Kong National Security Law.

Wong said that after the passage of the security law, he felt that the education sector in Hong Kong had changed a lot. As a Chinese teacher, he now feels pressure to consider whether he can teach content censored in China by the CCP to his students, such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and so on.

Wong said that every year on June 4, he would talk about the Tiananmen Square Massacre and would play some material clips for students. But this year, he is not sure whether he can keep doing this. Now, he has a sense of self-censorship, “because you don’t know what the students are thinking, and if they go and report you in secret, you’re doomed.”

The Hong Kong government currently requires that schools are politically neutral. However, Wong believes that schools can hardly be neutral because they can only praise the CCP, not criticize it.

“Where is political neutrality? There is no neutrality at all,” he said.

All kinds of surveillance are becoming more and more serious, and the systems of the mainland are already being directly used in Hong Kong, Wong added.

“It’s quite obvious that education in Hong Kong is becoming a communist one,” he said. Therefore, he said, many of his competent colleagues feel helpless and are now planning to flee Hong Kong. Wong admitted that if given the chance, he would also leave. He plans to do so in three to four years.

Teachers’ Union President Calls on Government to Listen to Voices in Education Sector

Fung also said on the union website that, according to another survey conducted by the union from last June, more than 90 percent of teachers believe that the education bureau, local government, pro-establishment figures and groups, mainland China’s official institutions, and media have been the main sources of political pressure to the education sector.

He pointed out that the education bureau’s push for curriculum reform that disregarded teachers’ views, the unfair handling of complaints, the frequent attacks on liberal studies by pro-establishment legislators, as well as the requests for installing CCTV in classrooms, were all actions compounding the political pressure on Hongkongers working in the education sector.

Ip Kin Yuen, vice president of the union, also believes that the education bureau has ignored teachers’ voices on many occasions in the past, including when the government renamed liberal studies to a subject called “Promoting Citizenship and Social Development.” Teachers were very dissatisfied with the policy.

Ip urged the Bureau to respect the views of teachers in the education sector and seek their full consultation before introducing any new measures.