A Hong Kong teacher has been struck off for allegedly promoting independence in class, a move hailed by the city’s leader on Tuesday as a blow against “black sheep” working in the education system.
The decision is the first time Hong Kong’s Education Bureau has removed a teaching licence because of the content of lessons, and comes as a crackdown on democracy supporters in the city gathers pace.
“Our work has to continue to remove the black sheep from the field of education,” chief executive Carrie Lam told reporters.
“If there are a very tiny fraction of teachers who are using their teaching responsibilities to convey wrong messages to promote misunderstanding about the nation, to smear the country, and the Hong Kong government, without basis, then that becomes a very serious matter,” she added.
The Education Bureau said the primary school teacher, who was not named, had been struck off for “deliberately disseminating pro-independence messages”.
The bureau did not give details of the material or explain how the teacher had crossed the line.
But a report on the primary school by a pro-Beijing newspaper last year featured photos of a question paper it said promoted independence.
Two of the questions asked “What is free speech?” and “What would Hong Kong become without free speech?”
Another asked students to summarise arguments made by a pro-independence activist during a television interview.
Education has become a key target for Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing administration after months of huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy rallies last year.
Many young people took part in the protests, which called for police accountability and greater autonomy for the city.
China’s central government imposed a sweeping security law on Hong Kong in June, outlawing public calls for independence and other allegedly subversive political views.
Schools and public libraries soon withdrew books deemed illegal under the new law.
Beijing has also called for more patriotic education, while Lam’s administration is looking at overhauling parts of the curriculum it believes are fuelling discontent towards China.
Critics say the moves undermine Hong Kong’s reputation for academic freedom and excellence, fearing the heavily censored education system used on the authoritarian mainland could be imposed on the city.