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Hundreds of Students Likely to Leave Hong Kong Schools

School students hold signs during a pro-democracy protests near their school in Hong Kong on June 12, 2020. (Photo by ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)
Hundreds of Students Likely to Leave Hong Kong Schools
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A Hong Kong teacher’s union says hundreds of students are likely to leave the Chinese territory’s schools after the upcoming summer vacation.

The Professional Teacher’s Union (PTU) conducted a poll of 180 primary and secondary schools. It reported that more than half said they expected to lose at least 10 students. Four schools said they had already lost more than 50 students this year.

The head of the PTU, Fung Wai-wah, said he believes one reason parents are taking their children out of schools is because of recent government interference in education. The government has ordered schools to “educate” students about a new national security law passed by the Chinese government last June.

The law sharply limits speech and other freedoms in Hong Kong. Critics say it is meant to silence voices of people who disagree with the government.

In January, 47 pro-democracy activists and former opposition party lawmakers were arrested on charges of subversion under the national security law.

Moves by China in recent years to restrict freedoms in Hong Kong resulted in protests like the one that drew 1.7 million people in August 2019.

Hong Kong schools are now required to teach their students about the national security law and watch for teachers and students who express opposing views.

Fung says teachers are against the government interference. “Subjects and teaching materials are being changed all the time,” he told Radio Free Asia. He added that teachers are worried about losing their jobs if they do not follow the Chinese government’s demands.

Fung said the government denies there is a problem. He called on officials to treat the situation “more seriously” and take steps to reduce interference so they can regain the trust of parents.

But programs that permit people with British National Overseas passports to move to Britain or Canada are getting popular.

About 15,000 people seem to be getting ready to go to Britain and about 6,000 have applied to go to Canada.

In the first four months of 2021, almost 12,000 people applied to police to receive a document proving they have no criminal record. The document is often required for people seeking to move to another country.

Hong Kong’s education bureau reported that nearly 20,000 students left primary and secondary schools in 2021 compared to last year. More than 5,000 students left private schools over the same period.

Dion Chen is the chairman of a schools council in Hong Kong. He agreed that students are leaving at a fast rate, but said the national security law is not the only cause.

He says families are concerned by changes in recent years that have affected the overall situation in Hong Kong. Chen added that some countries have also loosened restrictions for people seeking to leave Hong Kong.

Former teacher Yeung Tze-chun said schools that require tuition are also losing students. The parents of those students are more likely to have the money to leave Hong Kong. But these losses could leave the strongest schools to compete for just a few remaining students.

“I can only see the situation getting worse in the future,” Yeung said.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Gigi Lee wrote this story for Radio Free Asia’s Cantonese service. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.

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Words in This Story

poll –n. the results of a set of questions people are asked about a particular subject

apply –v. to ask officially for something, often by writing

tuition –n. money that is paid to a school for the right to study there

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