Political disputes and violence in schools
MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):
President, in addition to expressing concern for the actions of students in schools, the Education Bureau should also express concern on whether the students will contravene the law inadvertently outside campus. In the social movement in the past five months, 3 300 people have been arrested as at the end of October and the percentage of students under 16 in the total number of arrestees is not low. The situation is worrying and distressing.
In addition to the basic principles and guidelines issued in late August as the Secretary has mentioned in the main reply, has the Education Bureau taken any practical actions? For example, the Bureau may urge or advise students not to participate in unlawful assemblies, explain to them that radical elements may commit arson or throw petrol bombs at such assemblies and they may be hurt, tell them that their future will be ruined if they are charged with rioting offences.
SECRETARY FOR EDUCATION (in Cantonese):
President, we have communicated with the heads of primary and secondary schools, and the major messages are: First, we hope that they will maintain a peaceful and orderly learning environment in schools so that students can learn in a tranquil environment; second, we hope that they will take care of students’ emotions and help them calm down; third, I hope that schools will try to advise students not to participate in unlawful assemblies. If they participate in social activities, they should mind their own safety, refrain from endangering the safety of others and refrain from violating the law.
When the Government made the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation in October, we wrote to all schools on that day, hoping that they would immediately inform students and parents that the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation would take effect at midnight. We also asked schools to remind students that they should try to avoid wearing face masks when they go outside so as not to contravene the law inadvertently. These are what we have done to help schools in the light of the actual circumstances.
Assisting arts groups affected by demonstrations
MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):
President, a number of arts groups have relayed to me that they had been confused by the arrangements for the closure of venues, citing an occasion when one venue was closed while another venue remained open in the same district. Although the decisions of early closure of venues, as suggested by the Secretary, would be publicized through various channels, they were extremely hasty as far as time is concerned.
The Secretary pointed out in the main reply that decisions to close venues would be made based on the public safety assessment by the Police, public transportation on the event date, the actual environment of the venue concerned, etc., but these are rather general criteria. Can the Secretary put forward more specific, transparent and open criteria so that venue hirers may make an early assessment as to whether the venues concerned would be affected and closed? In addition, can the authorities inform the public in advance by, for example, pledging to give a notice a few days before the closure, instead of saying vaguely that it will inform the public as soon as possible?
SECRETARY FOR HOME AFFAIRS (in Cantonese):
President, we will definitely notify the arts groups and users concerned as soon as possible should we be informed in advance that exceptional circumstances will arise. However, Mr CHAN should also understand that recent happenings in our community are often so unpredictable that we cannot even predict what will happen one hour from now. As such, the venue managers in various districts will keep a close watch on the recent developments, as well as the Police’s assessment of the surrounding environment and traffic conditions. They will also discuss with the arts groups concerned. I appeal for understanding from Members. In fact, frontline managers may not have a set of objective indicators in making decisions. After taking various factors into account in a holistic manner, if they consider that the circumstances would jeopardize the safety of the venue, staff, arts groups or audience, they will definitely consult their supervisors about the closure of venues. If any inconvenience is caused, I hope that members of the public will understand.