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As Hong Kong's academic year begins, it's unclear what can legally be said in a classroom

March 23, 2021

Original Article:

As university lecturers in the social sciences across Hong Kong prepared for the fall term, writing lesson plans, sending out book lists, and testing Zoom setups, they also engaged in a furtive attempt to understand if their teaching might be deemed illegal.

Since it was proposed by Beijing, observers have warned that the vague language and sweeping nature of the security law gives the authorities broad scope to crack down on a variety of behaviors, while offering little guidance to those affected on how to stay the right side of it.

Schools have already been ordered by the government to remove books that contain content "which is outdated or involves the four crimes under the law," and works by several prominent pro-democracy activists, including former student activist Joshua Wong, have been removed from public libraries.

One lecturer at CUHK described how faculty members pressed university administrators in emails, encrypted messages and in hastily convened staff meetings for reassurances or guidance, with little success.

"The general consensus is we know too little and the wording of the legislation is too vague for us to prepare for it," said the lecturer, who spoke anonymously as they had not received permission from the school to do so. "So, it is essentially up to individuals to decide whether they want to be brave and ignore the whole thing, or self-censor."

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