Call for re­port on Lam sen­si­ble

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK COMMENT - CHAN WAI- KE­UNG The author is a lec­turer at the Col­lege of Pro­fes­sional and Con­tin­u­ing Ed­u­ca­tion at Hong Kong Polytech­nic Univer­sity.

On Mon­day, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive (CE) Le­ung Chun-ying, ap­pre­hen­sive about the fall­out of the swear words ut­tered by the teacher Al­pais Lam Wai-sze dur­ing her con­fronta­tion with the po­lice in Mong Kok, rightly en­trusted the Sec­re­tary for Ed­u­ca­tion with fil­ing a re­port on the in­ci­dent. Sadly, his call for the re­port has come un­der fire from some anti-es­tab­lish­ment ed­u­ca­tors and op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers. For ex­am­ple, the leg­is­la­tor Ip Kin-yuen has blasted Le­ung for dis­re­gard­ing and by­pass­ing such a pro­fes­sional sys­tem as the Coun­cil on Pro­fes­sional Con­duct in Ed­u­ca­tion (CPC) in deal­ing with the case. Echo­ing Ip, Fung Wai-wah, the pres­i­dent of the Pro­fes­sional Teach­ers’ Union, has deemed Lam’s words and be­hav­ior “a mi­nor is­sue”, lam­bast­ing Le­ung for mak­ing a moun­tain out of a mole­hill.

Did Le­ung re­ally make a moun­tain out of a mole­hill? Would the CPC in place of the Ed­u­ca­tion Bureau (EDB) be ut­terly pro­fes­sional and im­par­tial in han­dling the com­plaints against Lam? I doubt it.

To be­gin with, it was too far-fetched for the anti-es­tab­lish­ment ed­u­ca­tors and op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers to sug­gest that Le­ung had over­stated the grav­ity of the con­tro­versy sparked by Lam’s swear­ing at the po­lice. The con­tro­versy has cer­tainly es­ca­lated into the ed­u­ca­tional as well as po­lit­i­cal and so­cial lev­els. Abra­sively ex­alt­ing the foul-mouthed teacher as a role model for Hong Kong cit­i­zenry, the Ap­ple Daily edi­to­rial of July 31 has caused pal­pa­ble dis­quiet among par­ents. What has trou­bled par­ents the most is whether their chil­dren will be­come im­i­ta­tors of Ms Lam, speak­ing foul lan­guage against some­thing un­fa­vor­able. What has distressed them the most is the like­li­hood that their school teach­ers will model them­selves on Ms Lam in swear­ing against some­thing seem­ingly ad­verse. Their angst would not be al­layed and quelled even if the CE re­mained silent. Given the grow­ing anx­i­ety among par­ents, Le­ung’s bid for the end of the row through the EDB be­fore school be­gins in Septem­ber is not only ir­re­proach­able, but also highly de­sir­able.

So, why couldn’t the CPC in place of the EDB set­tle the dis­pute by fil­ing a re­port? I would ar­gue that the stance har­bored by its chair­man, Hon Lin-shan, has called into ques­tion the im­par­tial­ity and fair­ness with which the CPC would han­dle the case.

It is note­wor­thy that, shortly af­ter the re­lease of the first video clip of the English swear words spo­ken by Ms Lam, Hon, in con­junc­tion with two teach­ers, is­sued a press re­lease in full sup­port of her on Aug 2, say­ing that he, as an ed­u­ca­tor, was proud of work­ing with Lam. Worse still, fol­low­ing the re­cent re­lease of the sec­ond video clip of the Can­tonese in­vec­tive hurled by Lam, Hon, un­der the spell of his own anti-es­tab­lish­ment ide­ol­ogy, greeted the video clip with dis­be­lief, im­plau­si­bly dis­miss­ing the footage as “prob­a­bly fake”. Asked by some jour­nal­ists whether he could present any ev­i­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate his dis­be­lief, he be­came em­bar­rass­ingly quiet. Like­wise, asked by some jour­nal­ist whether he, as chair­man of the CPC, would form a panel to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Lam’s case by in­vok­ing the Code of the Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­fes­sional, he star­tlingly said that there was no such code bar­ring teach­ers from swear­ing. Hon’s anti-es­tab­lish­ment ide­ol­ogy may have blinded him to the code (2.1:10) that “teach­ers should re­frain from ac­tiv­i­ties that could dam­age the im­age of the pro­fes­sion”.

It is clear that, prior to any in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the CPC, Hon’s base­less pre­con­ceived no­tions of Lam’s case have un­der­mined pub­lic con­fi­dence in the ca­pac­ity of the CPC to fairly deal with Lam’s in­ci­dent. It is no won­der that some lead­ing ed­u­ca­tors such as Wong Kwan-yu have de­manded that Hon re­sign the chair­man­ship of the CPC be­cause of his ir­re­spon­si­ble and un­founded com­ments.

Given the one-sided stance demon­strated by Hon, Le­ung’s call for a re­port from the EDB is a sen­si­ble al­ter­na­tive strat­egy to set­tle the dis­pute. In an­a­lyz­ing the im­pact of Lam’s in­ci­dent on school pupils, the EDB, I would ven­ture to sug­gest, should also delve into the au­then­tic­ity of the sec­ond video clip of the Can­tonese in­vec­tive ut­tered by Lam. Up to now, like Hon, Al­pais Lam has dis­missed the sec­ond video clip as fake. But, much like Hon, she failed to present any ev­i­dence sub­stan­ti­at­ing that the footage had been doc­tored. Fur­ther­more, ac­cord­ing to some me­dia re­ports, a po­lice­man ver­i­fied that Lam had in­deed hurled th­ese Can­tonese swear words at him on the scene.

It is in­deed shame­ful if one of our teach­ers swears at the po­lice in bro­ken English. It is more shame­ful if he or she swears to the po­lice in the gross­est and the most ob­scene Can­tonese. But, it will be most shame­ful if he or she, as a teacher, lies to the pub­lic in a bid to evade the penalty for ut­ter­ing the nas­ti­est Can­tonese swear words in pub­lic. Af­ter all, pro­bity is the most im­por­tant virtue in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

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