10/14/2011, 00.00
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Appeals Court decides less freedom for Hong Kong schools

Despite a long and hard battle, led by Cardinal Zen, the Territory judges reject an appeal against order requiring private and religious schools to set up monitoring bodies to have the state funds. Bishop Tong: "We have a commitment, we will respect it."
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The Court of Appeals has rejected the appeal submitted by the diocese in the Territory against the amendment to the Education Ordinance 2004 - adopted in July of that year by the Territory Legislative Council - which requires schools in part supported by the government to introduce control bodies for administration and teaching.

The bishop of Hong Kong, Mgr. John Tong-hon said: "We have a social responsibility in education, and will continue to take it forward." Cecilia Wong Yeuk-han, a spokesman for the diocese, said: "Schools are an integral part of our mission and all must obey the law. We will continue to bring forward and look after the interests of the students until we do so in accordance with our beliefs. "

The law provides several benefits to schools which implement the Ordinance: insurance to school personnel, flexibility in managing funds, an annual bonus of 350 thousand Hong Kong dollars (about 35 thousand Euros). According to the amendment, however, each school financially supported by the government must prepare an internal organizing committee (School Management Committee, SMC) with a separate legal status from the educational institutions (Sponsoring Bodies, Sb).

The government argues that this allows for greater transparency and greater democracy, but for school managers it is just a ploy to interfere in the internal management and undermine the freedom of education. Schools that refuse to enforce the decree, moreover, are penalized: Several Christian leaders have called it "discriminatory and racist".

According to Justice Kemal Bokhary "the appeal failed because the legislation in question does not prevent religious organizations from appointing a majority of people close to them in their schools." The 357 schools - of about 850 total - which until now have refused to implement the amendment.

Timothy Ha Wing-ho, the education adviser to the Anglican archbishop, confirmed that 80 schools will now implement it: "But we are very angry. With this law people who do not share our values will be able to join the Board of Directors. " Cardinal Zen, bishop emeritus of the Territory, has repeatedly stated that schools governed by the diocese "can not live without freedom: if the law does not change, we are prepared to close them."

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