Call for report on Lam sensible
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.