In my article published by this newspaper on June 10, titled “Professional Teachers’ Union must not be let off the hook over social unrest”, I listed evidence of the union’s despicable behavior, and proposed that resolute action should be taken to end the PTU’s subversive activities once and for all.
It is gratifying for me to see that the Education Bureau has finally taken action and announced on Saturday that, with immediate effect, it will sever all ties with the union and strip it of its status as a professional group. The EDB henceforth will no longer engage in any formal or informal meetings with the union, nor consider its opinions on matters pertaining to the education sector. The bureau will also temporarily stop looking into the cases referred by the union, and will review its advisory bodies and other groups with a view to removing all PTU representatives from them.
In the face of its utter public humiliation, it is sad and amusing to note the PTU’s pathetic attempt to rewrite history in a press statement claiming that the union had always opposed Hong Kong independence and cared about the country’s development. Unfortunately, its history of knee-jerk opposition against the central government on just about all issues is simply too numerous and familiar to Hong Kong’s avid newspaper readers. Likewise, the PTU’s nose must have grown even longer as it denied having “incited kids to break the law” during the 2019 street riots, saying it cared about students’ safety and never invited them to participate in any demonstrations! Such blatant lies coming from the mouths of teachers are particularly disturbing, immoral and unforgivable!
The truth is well-documented by the local media. It is precisely thanks to the union’s open instigation that misguided students, including primary students, are now serving jail sentences with many confessing to have been brainwashed by the PTU’s teachers who imbued them with the grotesque idea that “it is proper to break the law to achieve justice” and encouraged them to join the street protests, which often deteriorated into wanton destruction of public infrastructure and private businesses said to be China-friendly.
The union even went so far as to organize public seminars advising students how to avoid police arrest! They and its member teachers glorified the rioters as heroes; and organized public protests in many schools to stir up the students’ passion for “revolution”, and paint the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and the police as mortal enemies. Its member teachers’ culpability is simply incontrovertible. What is shameful is that trained teachers, who should know better, are exploiting their naive and trusting students to do their dirty bidding to help advance their own political agenda. Nothing could be more deplorable!
Indeed, there are at least four cardinal sins committed by the PTU. Firstly, it has acted as a political organization in the name of an educational professional trade union to take every opportunity to demonize China and the “one country, two systems” policy before and after the 1997 reunification, in the process, abrogating its professional mandate. Its own publications provide ample evidence to that effect. It has also been active partners with subversive organizations such as the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China and the Civil Human Rights Front, both now under police investigation for suspected subversive activities. The union’s recent withdrawal from these two organizations highlights its haste to distance themselves from its former associations.
Secondly, it played a key role in sabotaging the aborted National Education Bill in 2012, thus preventing our students from receiving patriotic education and a better understanding of their motherland. On that occasion, the PTU even provided a transport allowance for teachers and students to participate in public protests against the bill. Meanwhile, the PTU continued to publish teaching materials intended on instilling hatred against China, thus planting the seeds for the Hong Kong independence movement.
Thirdly, the PTU played a crucial role in launching and maintaining for 79 days the highly economically and socially disruptive “Occupy Central” campaign and the destructive 2019 street riots, causing mammoth economic loss and damage to both public and private properties. It facilitated such anarchic social unrest by encouraging class boycotts, and misleading students into breaking laws to support the radical political opposition.
Fourthly, the union and some of its active members have maintained a close collaborative relationship with some hostile Western powers and external political organizations, which have provided support to violent elements among the rioters.
However, the EDB’s move against the PTU could have been better timed. It acted only hours after the State media, People’s Daily, as well as Xinhua News Agency, had published commentaries describing the PTU as a “malignant tumor” that must be eradicated, and called on Hong Kong authorities to investigate the union. It gives the impression that the HKSAR government needs a push from the central government to do what is clearly long overdue. However, this may not be the whole story. I suspect the initiative probably came from the new chief secretary, John Lee Ka-chiu, who had earlier demonstrated the will and determination to tackle the root causes that were undermining our national security. Indeed, he had warned on Saturday that “if any group acted beyond the scope of its professional purview, the government would deal with the matter according to the law”. It is hoped that this case can serve as a template for further crackdowns against other professional bodies, which are in reality “malignant tumors” of our society that must be excised for their subversive nature.
So what’s next? Firstly, the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force should thoroughly investigate the PTU, leaving no stone unturned, covering all the alleged criminal conduct mentioned above, and at the same time conduct a thorough financial audit of the PTU and follow its money trail to pinpoint its relationship with other subversive organizations in Hong Kong and abroad, including the notorious National Endowment for Democracy.
Secondly, the education budget for the coming financial year must be reviewed to ensure it does not continue to favor the PTU and its members.
The EDB has apparently succumbed to the PTU’s pressure in refusing to divulge the identities of those teachers found guilty of disciplinary offences related to the violent social unrest. This is contrary to the standard practice of other leading professional bodies such as the Medical Council and the Law Society of Hong Kong. The public and parents clearly have the right to know whether their students are being taught by those teachers whose character has been found wanting. Indeed, by announcing the full circumstances of these cases, it would provide a fair assessment of those teachers’ culpability and enable parents to make an intelligent choice of school places for their children.
Thirdly, all registered teachers, irrespective of whether they are in public, subsidized or private schools, should be required to swear an oath of allegiance to the country and the HKSAR government, and to abide by the Basic Law, or their registration will be canceled. The code of conduct for teachers and the disciplinary procedure should be strengthened accordingly.
The PTU, through its vast network of schools and teachers, has poisoned the minds of nearly a generation of young Hong Kongers. Those members who have awoken from this nightmarish association with it should cut their ties with the PTU for good and join another reputable teachers’ union, or establish a new one, all with the students’ long-term interest at heart. This would not only be for their own good, but also for the students that they must teach and mentor in the future. The PTU truly is a bad dream that must be consigned to history now!
The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space, a council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, and a former deputy commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.