EXCLUSIVE: Some foreign government-employed English teachers must swear allegiance to Hong Kong or risk their jobs
The requirement for government employees to take an oath of allegiance to Hong Kong has been extended to foreigners teaching English in some local schools. They were told they risked losing their jobs if they refused.
The requirement applies to native English teachers (NET) working in public schools – a type of public sector school run by the Hong Kong Education Bureau (EDB). NETs whose contracts began on or after July 1, 2020, the first day the national security law comes into effect, are required to make the declaration.
In response to an inquiry by the HKFP, the EDB confirmed that teachers employed in public schools under the scheme and counselors in the office were informed of the requirement to sign the declaration last Tuesday.
Signed declarations must be returned by June 21. In the event of “negligence, refusal or failure to duly sign”, the EDB, “based on the facts of each case, will take action to terminate employment…in accordance with the applicable terms of his employment contract.”
The HKFP asked the EDB whether the requirement will be extended to people employed in other types of public sector schools, such as assisted schools and schools under the direct grant scheme.
A NET teacher employed at a public school said he received a “stack” of documents explaining the requirement as well as the declaration form itself, which was seen by HKFP.
The teacher told HKFP that they were “not happy” to have to sign it, adding that the move was as if the authorities were “treating us like foreign agents who could instill dangerous ideas in the minds of young people of Hong Kong”.
The full statement – click to view
I declare that as a government employee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China appointed for non-civil service conditions, I will abide by the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, be dedicated to my duties and be responsible to the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The president of the Native English Speaking Teachers’ Association, or NESTA, declined to comment. He abruptly ended the call when HKFP contacted him on Thursday. Meanwhile, a media request left on a NET forum has been deleted.
The NET program recruits English teachers, largely from overseas, to teach in public sector schools. According to the Office of Education website, NETs are employed on two-year contracts, normally beginning in mid-August. The starting rate of NET’s monthly salary is at point 15 of the civil servant salary scale – HK$31,750.
“A fundamental responsibility”
Following the passage of the National Security Law in 2020, authorities gradually required government employees to take an oath or make a statement to uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution; swear allegiance to Hong Kong; and be accountable to the Hong Kong government.
The Civil Service Bureau announced in October 2020 that civil servants appointed after the enactment of the legislation would be required to take a loyalty oath.
” Maintain [the Basic Law] and the oath of allegiance are a fundamental responsibility and requirement. Confirmation of such a basic requirement is a fundamental requirement for civil servants,” Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip said in November 2020.
The requirement was later widened to include officials appointed before the Security Act came into effect.
Then, last May, the authorities announced that civil servants employed on a contractual basis – that is, they are not subject to the conditions of civil service – would also have to sign the declaration.
The national security law, passed by Beijing’s top legislature, was signed into law in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020. It follows months of protests in the summer of 2019, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to oppose a controversial extradition bill. The legislation criminalizes subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts.
HKFP has contacted consulates in the UK, US, Canada and Australia to find out if taking the declaration would have an effect on citizenship.
The movement is an expansion of the government
Extension of the obligation to take an oath