Carrie Lam blames Hong Kong education system for fuelling protests

Pro-Beijing leader pledges to overhaul school system, after weekend of heavy-handed police action

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, Carrie Lam, has vowed to overhaul the city’s education system, saying its liberal studies curriculum helped to fuel last year’s violent pro-democracy protests.

Her intervention follows a weekend of heavy-handed police responses to scattered protests across the city, with journalists pepper-sprayed and searched, at least 18 people injured, a 12-year-old student journalist detained, and an estimated 200 people arrested.

Lam described the current secondary school programme as a “chicken coop without a roof” and said her government would soon unveil its plans. She reportedly said students needed protection from being “poisoned” and fed “false and biased information”.

“In terms of handling the subject of liberal studies in the future, we will definitely make things clear to the public within this year,” she told the pro-government Ta Kung Pao newspaper in an interview published on Monday.

Lam has record low approval ratings as leader and is under increasing pressure from Beijing authorities frustrated with the pro-democracy protests which have besieged the city since June.

Recent weeks have seen extraordinary interventions by Beijing into Hong Kong affairs and warnings that it will not “stand idly by” while the “political virus” of protesters continue.

Flash mob protests were called for the weekend after a house committee meeting in Hong Kong’s legislative council turned violent on Friday afternoon, drawing groups mainly to shopping malls to chant slogans and sing, where they were met by large contingents of riot police.

This boy was asked by the police how old he was; he told them he was 13. He’s since been identified as being part of Student Depth Media.

The issue of secondary schoolers acting as reporters is a tough one, but he did nothing provocative and kept his cool while being singled out

— Aaron Mc Nicholas (@aaronMCN) May 10, 2020

On Sunday police chased protesters through the upmarket complexes and streets of Kowloon.

Live streams of the demonstrations showed police appearing to shoot pepper balls inside a mall where people were shopping and dining with families, pinning a child to the ground, and detaining two student journalists aged 12 and 16. Pandemic prevention laws were also used to issue fines against people for gathering.

Hong Kong police denied they arrested the two children, saying the minors were taken to the police station for their own safety, where their guardians were called to collect them. The mother of the younger boy told media police had threatened to fine her if he was seen again.

The police force said they entered the shopping malls to “stop protesters breaching to peace”, and responded in Mong Kok to protesters setting fires and “seriously disturbing the public order and posing a threat to public safety”.

Hospital officials told RTHK News 18 people presented to emergency rooms with injuries sustained during protests on Sunday, including the legislator Roy Kwong who was shown on live streams being forcefully held to the ground by police in Mong Kok, and a journalist who alleged a police officer had strangled her neck from behind for several seconds.

this is the moment lawmaker Roy Kwong is subdued.

He was pushed forcefully to the ground, and riot police rushed to press his head onto the floor with their knees.

— LO Kin-hei 羅健熙 (@lokinhei) May 10, 2020

In Mong Kok a large group of reporters were kettled by police, told to kneel and stop filming, and prevented from leaving despite some appearing to have been affected by pepper spray.

Since the protests began last June there are growing concerns about police brutality and rule breaches occurring without consequence, including the targeting of journalists.

#HongKongPolice has asked a large amount of #HongKong journalists to fall on their knees, asking mainstream media to group together & other web-based or student press to stay elsewhere in #MongKok. The reporters are asked to stop rolling their live streams #HongKongProtests

— Damon Pang (@damon_pang) May 10, 2020


Helen Davidson and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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