Hong Kong ‘Considering Penalties’ for Teachers over Student Protests

Hong Kong police slammed as 'trigger-happy' after teen shot
AP Photo/Vincent Yu

The Hong Kong Education Bureau announced on Wednesday that up to 30 teachers may face penalties for “misconduct” related to student protests.

Roughly a third of the 106 complaints filed against teachers since June were considered substantial enough to pursue, most of them involving possession of weapons, violence, or “unlawful assembly.”

The severity of the offenses and possible penalties were not disclosed by the Education Bureau, but the Hong Kong Free Press reported the details of one case that could result in a teacher suspension:

Police arrested 12 people – including a teacher and six students – in the early hours of Monday in Sheung Shui, who allegedly had items such as metal nails, an electric drill and Naptha.

The school should “exercise its duty as an employer and its duty to ensure student safety, and consider suspending the teacher,” the Education Bureau wrote in a letter to the school.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam expressed concerns about “violence” and “illegal activities” on campus and the large number of students who have joined the protest movement, noting that some 40 percent of the people arrested since the uprising began in June were students.

Students have played a major role in the Hong Kong protest movement, contributing not just additional numbers for protest marches but a major portion of the movement’s intellectual vitality and creative energy. They have written songs and plays supporting Hong Kong’s battle for autonomy. They trouble Beijing, and Chinese Communist Party proxies in Hong Kong like Carrie Lam, because they are sympathetic and inspire protective impulses in older residents. They tend to be tech-savvy and connected to other student bodies around the world.

Some observers thought students might have passed a tipping point and gotten on the wrong side of public opinion by attempting to turn universities into political fortresses, with a particularly disastrous effect on campuses like Polytechnic University. An opportunity was created for Lam and her officials to portray young protesters as dangerously out of control.

And yet, Sunday saw one of the biggest marches to date in Hong Kong, a stunning demonstration of strength and resolve after six months of turbulence. Students were prominently represented among the 800,000 people who took to the streets, while polls found at least 70 percent of the public in support of the protest movement.

One of those polls said 92 percent of Hong Kongers believe “radical action” is understandable “when the government fails to listen.” There is little sign that the momentum of the protest movement is abating, either in the streets or on campus.

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