‘PTU’s demise will benefit education sector’

A veteran pro-Beijing educator says he believes the demise of the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) will do more good than harm to the education sector.

Wong Kwan-yu, head of the Federation of Education Workers, said the PTU had in the past done things that affected the professional image of teachers.

“Our education sector can become more professional in future. The PTU has long been accused of putting politics over professionalism. [Since] it has dominated the industry, many people thought the whole industry was like that,” Wong said on a radio programme on Wednesday.

He also criticised the PTU for providing legal support for some teachers accused of professional misconduct.

“The union has supported some teachers accused of professional misconduct, prompting people to think that all teachers are problematic. This has some impact on the industry’s development, image and social standing,” he said.

Wong however conceded that over 90,000 members of the PTU and teachers in general may face more difficulties when they want to file complaints or seek training opportunities and better welfare.

He said his organisation will try its best to take over some services, adding a newly set up teachers’ union will also divide work with his federation in future.

“Teachers’ demand for services like professional training and protection of rights is huge… The Federation of Education Workers of course hopes to try our best to fulfil these needs. But looking at our current manpower and resources, we cannot fully replace PTU or fulfil these needs,” he said.

State media labelled the PTU “a tumour that has to be rooted out” before its decision to disband, and Wong said he believed it had to do with the pro-democracy union’s “refusal to cut ties with separatist ideas”.

He said people associated with the 48-year-old union “won’t be free of criminal liability if they had committed crimes, even after the group’s disbandment”.

Soon after the state media’s attack, the Education Bureau severed ties with the PTU, and accused it of encouraging students and teachers to join anti-government protests.