Pens down as 72 schools threaten class boycott

Top News | Stella Wong 12 Jun 2019

Students from at least 72 secondary schools, including top ones like Diocesan Boys' School and La Salle College, signed online petitions to boycott classes today while university unionists urged students to join the rally at government headquarters.

This comes as the Professional Teachers' Union announced it is planning another class boycott with details to be discussed on Saturday.

The Education Bureau has slammed the boycott calls as "extremely irresponsible."

Students from St Francis' Canossian College, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's alma mater, and St Mary's Canossian College, which Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah attended, also signed boycott petitions.

Petitioners urged schools to exercise discretion with examination arrangements, as many of them are having exams at this time.

Some students said they would invite teachers who boycott classes to explain the bill in a liberal studies class at the rally.

In addition, student unions at seven tertiary institutions are urging all Hongkongers to go on strike, whether at work, school or business today, and join the rally to prepare for upcoming actions.

They include the Chinese, Polytechnic, Baptist, Education and City universities, University of Science and Technology, and Academy For Performing Arts.

Jacky So Tsun-fung, president of CUHK Student Union, said students have to step up their protests as "this authoritarian government completely ignores the voices of its citizens."

So added: "The amendment allows Hongkongers to be easily transferred to China, a place with a low level of rule of law, no judicial independence and adverse human rights conditions. This completely ignores the interests of Hongkongers. This time we must resist."

Student unions also announced a class boycott, but many institutions are having semester breaks. Some students are taking summer courses or undergoing internships.

They are also discontented with police officers' "unreasonable violence" against students during Sunday's clashes.

The Professional Teachers' Union called on schools to allow flexible arrangements for teachers who want to join today's protest.

The union said it would organize a suspension of classes, and would meet with school representatives on Saturday to discuss details.

Education-sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said discussions will be held on how to conduct the boycott in an orderly and effective way, so as to make sure that parents and students are taken care of, and they can make full use of the action to demand a change to the policy.

"The government should understand that if they do not make a timely change, it will have to face huge pressure from the education sector and also parents," he said.

The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools called on teachers and students not to go on strike, but it urged the legislation be postponed.

"We really hope the government will suspend the legislation, listen to citizens' voices and avoid polarizing society," it said.

Undersecretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin said a boycott is not responsible.

She called on students to pay attention to safety and express opinions through legal channels.

"We don't think it is appropriate to initiate class boycotts. There are so many ways they can express their opinions," she said.

Choi said the safety and interests of students were the schools' top priority, and teachers should not affect schools' normal operation while expressing opinions.

Teachers who would like to join the boycott should communicate with schools beforehand so schools can arrange enough manpower to take care of students, she added.

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