A teacher in Hong Kong was removed after being accused of promoting the territory’s independence in the classroom.
Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong said it was important to weed out “bad apples” from the education system.
Beijing believes schools have been helping to foment opposition to China’s communist party.
Hong Kong’s largest teachers’ union has accused Hong Kong authorities of conducting an unfair investigation.
Rights group Amnesty International said the sacking sent an ominous message to teachers in Hong Kong about the discussion of politics in schools.
But Ms Lam insisted that the teacher’s removal was the result of a “thorough” probe.
Activists and observers fear that freedom of expression in public life and academia is on the decline in Hong Kong following the introduction of a controversial new law. In July books by pro-democracy figures were removed from public libraries and a leading university fired law professor Benny Tai over a criminal conviction for his role in the 2014 pro-democracy protests.
This latest development marks the first time that the territory’s education bureau has removed a teacher’s licence due to classroom content.
Under the controversial national security law, passed in June, it is illegal to advocate for Hong Kong’s independence. The teacher’s misconduct happened before the law was in force, but the education bureau said it was still in violation of the Basic Law – the territory’s mini-constitution.
Concerns were raised after the teacher showed students a TV documentary featuring pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin. Pupils were then asked to answer four questions from a worksheet about freedom of speech and proposals for Hong Kong’s independence.
However the parents of children in the teacher’s class told local media that the worksheet had nothing advocating for independence.
National Security Law:
The law came into force on 30th June, night 11pm with four categories of offences – secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security.
The punishment varies between a life to a three year imprisonment.
‘Anti-nationals’ can be extradited to mainland China from Hong Kong. The law also subverts the Hong Kong judiciary as only Beijing appointed judges can hear such matters.
The law is applicable to entire China including Hong Kong. Even foreign nationals could face action under this law if they are found to be anti-Beijing.
Opponents, including the UN, say it breaches international law and erodes basic freedoms in the former British colony. But Beijing has said the legislation is needed to tackle unrest and instability.