The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, which has been in existence for over 45 years, is no more after the government of China’s state-run media attacked it for its “anti-China” stance.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) stated on August 10 that it will begin the process of disbanding “with immediate effect,” and a message to union members was uploaded on the HKPTU website, www.hkptu.org.
The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) said that mainland China’s People’s Daily and the Xinhua news agency had referred to the teachers’ union as a “poisonous growth” that needed to be eradicated. The decision to dissolve, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a US government-funded station, seemed to be an effort to deter the authorities from investigating the union and seizing its assets.
According to the Global Times, a pro-Beijing tabloid, the Hong Kong Education Bureau refused to formally recognize the teachers’ union on July 31. The union has a long history of “anti-China and trouble-making operations,” according to the publication.
The government of mainland China is demanding that Hong Kong authorities examine the union’s previous actions, according to the South China Morning Post. According to the newspaper, the union’s leadership has taken steps to speed up the dissolution process since the declaration on August 10. According to the Global Times, the union’s dissolution does not rule out the prospect of an inquiry.
Teachers who had just renewed their membership will be offered refunds, according to the union’s message to its members.
The union would also “never longer comment on or engage in social issues,” according to the statement. According to Nikkei Asia, the union has “driven the pro-democracy campaign for decades.”
Teachers, according to Amnesty International, are living in terror.
According to the HKFP, Amnesty International’s Joshua Rosenzweig said the union’s decision to dissolve showed anxiety among the city’s teachers.
The governments of Hong Kong and China seemed to be “intensifying efforts to eliminate civil society organizations with a strong mobilizing capacity,” he said. Rosenzweig went on to remark that the ramifications for the city’s remaining labor unions were concerning.
Amnesty International stated on Twitter that the teachers’ union’s dissolution “highlights the increasingly diminishing scope for freedom of speech in Hong Kong’s schools and institutions.”
The demise of Hong Kong’s largest teachers’ union shows the increasingly decreasing scope for freedom of speech in Hong Kong’s schools and universities—education institutions should not be singled out just because they support academic freedom. https://t.co/xK7PC5aNWx
11 August 2021 — Amnesty International (@amnesty)
Possible cascade effect
Ivan Choy, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told RFA that the union’s demise would “have a tremendous influence on other civil society groups,” adding that if the big teachers union could not continue under current political circumstances, “others are likely to find it more difficult.”
Last year’s adoption of Hong Kong’s national security legislation resulted in the closure of a number of civil society organizations, according to the HKFP.
The Neo Democrats, Médecins Inspirés, the Progressive Teachers’ Alliance, and the Lawyers Group, according to the news organization, became inactive after the legislation was passed.
Despite their concerns, journalists are “going about our business as normal.”
Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, talked to RTHK, Hong Kong’s public broadcaster, one day after the teachers’ union announced its dissolution. Chan expressed fear that his group might be the next target of the government. “We’re simply doing our own work as normal,” he told RTHK, adding that his group had done nothing illegal and had no intention of breaking the national security legislation. According to the RTHK, Chan’s group and the Confederation of Trade Unions have stated their intention to keep operating until it is no longer feasible.
One day after the Professional Teachers’ Union announced its disbandment, both the #HongKong Journalists Association and the Confederation of Trade Unions said they will continue their work. https://t.co/4wq2sXBM0I
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