Hong Kong Bishop Urges Resistance Against Education Ordinance

Calls Changes “Unilateral, Revolutionary and Indiscriminate”

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HONG KONG, NOV. 21, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Bishop Joseph Zen of Hong Kong is calling for passive resistance to the government’s attempt to control all of the territory’s schools, including Church-run institutions.

In a letter sent to supervisors, managers and principals of all Catholic schools, he asks them to ignore the new Education Amendment Ordinance, passed by Hong Kong Legislative Council on July 8, which would give the government control over education and marginalize the Church. AsiaNews published excerpts of the letter.

In the letter dated Saturday, Bishop Zen asserts that it is not his intention to clash with the government, but rather that he does want to protect educational freedom and “safeguard our Catholic tradition in education.”

In his opinion, freedom in education is threatened by the latest legislative measures passed by the Legislative Council, but in fact put forward by Beijing.

According to the terms of the new ordinance, all subsidized schools must have an Incorporated Management Committee (IMC) by 2010.

The bishop wrote that no school should set up an IMC. But he did call on Catholic schools to strengthen their existing management committees, in order to encourage greater involvement of parents, teachers and alumni who share the same Catholic “vision and mission” in education.

In his letter, he contends that new ordinance “has radically changed Hong Kong’s educational system, which has been very effective for decades. It has demolished the partnership, and the relation of trust and collaboration between sponsoring bodies and the government.”

Changes have been made that are “unilateral, revolutionary and indiscriminate” without any input from all those involved, he states.

An IMC in effect would become the government’s real partner in education. As the agent responsible before the government for the school, the IMC becomes responsible for educational policies. It is supposed to be made up of representatives elected by teachers, parents, alumni and “other independent persons from society at large.”

The government claims that this is a step toward democracy. The Church, in contrast, sees it as a ploy to have its own educational policies shunted aside and its responsibilities and power taken away.

For some missioners, it is “odd that the government, which has been blocking the process of democratization of Hong Kong society and refusing universal suffrage in the territory’s elections, should be now so concerned about school democracy.”

In Hong Kong, the Catholic Church runs more than 300 schools known for their high-quality education. Many leaders in the pro-democracy movement are alumni of Catholic schools.

Many observers suspect that the ordinance’s real intent is to eliminate Catholic and democratic influence and plant pro-Beijing people in management positions.

The ordinance allows that all schools functioning as of next Jan. 1 may wait till 2010 to set up the new management body.

The Anglicans even threatened to shut down their schools if the government does not allow them to be fully responsible for education management.

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ZENIT Staff

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