Thu, Jan 12, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Hong Kong official lambasted over teacher suicide

WORK PRESSURES The families of two teachers who jumped to their deaths from high buildings blame stress from education reforms

DPA , HONG KONG

Hong Kong's education secretary was facing a barrage of criticism yesterday after making an allegedly callous remark over the suicide of two teachers.

A teachers' union demanded a full apology from Fanny Law (羅范椒芬) after she made a remark rebutting a connection between ongoing education reforms and the two suicides.

Law, responding to reporters questions after a legislative council meeting on Monday, said: "If their death is related to the education reforms, then why did only two teachers [commit suicide]?"

Her comment came after a 42-year-old teacher and a 54-year-old teacher both jumped to their deaths from their high-rise apartment homes within four days of each other last week.

The families of the two teachers blamed the suicides on the pressure at work as the education reforms are implemented to streamline and cut costs in the city's schools.

The Professional Teachers' Union called Law's remark "cold blooded" and demanded that she apologize for the impact of the education reforms, which teachers say is increasing their workload.

Law apologized for her remark during a radio phone-in show on Tuesday, saying she "chose the wrong word," but she did not offer an apology for the impact of the reforms.

The union claims teachers are working up to 70 hours a week since the reforms came into effect and is organizing a protest on Jan. 22 to call for them to be rolled back.

Education Minister Arthur Li (李國章) has defended Law for her remarks, saying they were taken out of context.

"She is an extremely caring and passionate person," he said.

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