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HK education institutes told to uphold national security

Institutions would invite legal repercussions for failing to follow the directive, says Labor and Welfare Bureau

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee attends the opening ceremony of the 2023 National Security Education Day on April 15

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee attends the opening ceremony of the 2023 National Security Education Day on April 15. (Photo: GovHK via KFP)

Published: September 21, 2023 11:48 AM GMT

Updated: September 21, 2023 11:51 AM GMT

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing administration has ordered more than 100 state-funded education institutes to safeguard national security, says a report.

The Labor and Welfare Bureau (LWB) on Sept. 19 revised the terms for all courses under the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) stating that all relevant groups must safeguard national security, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported on Sept. 21.

The bureau, in its revised term, urged the institutions to ensure that everyone “involved in the management, operation or delivery” of CEF courses “acquire a correct understanding,” and comply with the national security law.

The institutions must also ensure that such personnel did not engage in any activities that violated the law or were “contrary to the interest of national security,” the bureau said.

The CEF, established in 2002 by the government, funds private and public institutions to provide a wide range of courses for Hong Kong residents aged 18 to 70.

Hong Kong’s CEF list includes more than 100 institutions including universities, colleges and schools offering cooking classes, driving schools, language classes, and make-up classes among others.

Wall Street English and the Goethe Institute which specializes in providing German language training are among the institutions on the CEF list.

The bureau in its directive has also urged the institutions to ensure that employees providing educational services are clear of any legal or criminal charges under Hong Kong’s national security law.

Key personnel involved in CEF courses should not be “under police investigation for, charged with or convicted of any offense endangering national security under the National Security Law,” the bureau said.

The move from the bureau came after Hong Kong’s Audit Commission said in a report last November that the CEF did not include any terms linked to national security in its cooperation with course providers.

The commission had recommended that the inclusion of new terms to ensure national security risks were also considered and added to the CEF.

The commission also pointed out that some of the courses that were promoted to migrate from Hong Kong such as “go to the UK and work as an electrician,” were not aligned with the mission of CEF, HKFP reported.

In response to a media query, the bureau warned that schools and other institutions would invite legal repercussions should they fail to follow the directive.

“In case of any suspected breach of national security requirements in the CEF terms and conditions, the LWB will suspend or even de-register the CEF courses of the institutions/organizations concerned and refer the cases to law enforcement agencies for follow-up,” the bureau said.

The bureau has sent out letters to all the schools providing courses under the CEF asking them for a written statement acknowledging their understanding of the bureau’s directive and their “ongoing compliance with relevant requirements.”

Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 to crush the massive pro-democracy movement in the former British colony.

The repressive law criminalizes all forms of dissent and gives sweeping powers to security forces. Western governments and rights groups criticize the law as a political tool to dismantle democracy, freedom and rights in the semi-autonomous city.  

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