Education Bureau demands school reports on protest action

Top News | Stella Wong 8 Oct 2019

The Education Bureau has demanded all secondary schools report the number of students wearing masks on campuses today - the first school day after the anti-mask law came into effect.

Teddy Tang Chun-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, said on radio yesterday that the bureau requested all secondary schools record and submit numbers involving students' unexplained absences and those wearing masks, boycotting classes and joining human chains.

Tang said he did not feel pressured to do so as the bureau asked only for an approximate number and did not ask for student names.

But the head of the Wan Chai District Headmasters' Conference, Tai Tak-ching, said his school would not submit any figures, adding it is unnecessary since the anti-mask law does not apply in schools.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union urged the bureau to stop collecting the number of students wearing masks today. Over 100 protesters were arrested on the first day, with over 60 percent of them being students, according to a police source.

They were arrested for using facial covering while in an unlawful assembly, unlawful assembly and possession of an offensive weapon. Among the students arrested, most were under 16 years old, with the youngest being only 12. Schools also need to report whether students are joining sit-in protests, chanting slogans or singing protest songs at school.

Tang said he believes schools need to understand students' circumstances to offer appropriate support, while the bureau needs to have knowledge of the overall situation.

He added that schools only received the bureau's letter requesting they remind students not to cover their faces at 3pm on Friday, making it difficult to notify students in such a short time.

Tai, the principal of Sheng Kung Hui Tang Shiu Kin Secondary School, said schools are not venues for public or unlawful assembly and is not under the purview of the Public Order Ordinance.

"The school is a place where many people gather. It is very common for students to be worried about being infected [by diseases]," he said.

The teachers' union said this "unreasonable" measure has turned a public health issue into a political issue and put pressure on schools.

The bureau said it has been contacting schools every day after the start of the new academic year to understand their situation and provide appropriate assistance.

It emphasized that it has never and will not collect personal information.

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