Ma On Shan high school accused of condoning bullying after video emerges

Screengrab via Apple Daily.
Screengrab via Apple Daily.

A private high school in Ma On Shan has said it will not tolerate bullying after a video appeared online showing what appears to be demeaning prank that descends into outright violence.

A short video published by Apple Daily yesterday appears to show a group of students harassing a teenage boy, who then lashes out, knocking another boy the floor, stepping on him and hitting him in the back. A second student can then be seen shoving the student into a wall as he attempts to get up.

The incident took place in February in a classroom at Tak Sun Secondary School, a Catholic all-boys private school where parents pay tuition fees of HK$22,000 (US$2,500) per year.

The video makes it difficult to establish who is the aggressor in the situation, but the person who sent the video — a student at the school referred to as “X” — said the boys had been trying to rope the student into a demeaning game called “happy corner.”

X said it was known that the boys at the center of the brawl — all of whom are in their fifth year of high school — didn’t get along, but he didn’t know what led up to the incident or who instigated it.

For those who don’t know, “happy corner” is a game in which three to four “executioners” hold a “victim” by their arms and legs like an X. The victim’s legs are then spread and the executioners bump or rub the victim’s groin against a pole or tree.

While the game is theoretically not meant to hurt the victim, it carries an obvious potential for abuse. In its more innocent form, it’s often played as a good-natured, risque prank among young men during birthdays, or other celebrations. However, one academic warned in Varsity — the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s student magazine — that if the “victim” feels uncomfortable or intimidated, the game can be seen as a form of sexual harassment.

X told the newspaper most of the students attending Tak Sun — including the students in the video — come from wealthy families, and that those students tend to be the most badly-behaved but are nonetheless treated as “guests” by the school. He went on to accuse the school of condoning bullying, saying that when administrators dealt with bullies, there was rarely any punishment beyond a verbal warning or detention, and that parents were rarely notified of their sons’ behavior.

In a statement sent to Coconuts HK this morning, Tak Sun maintained it “has always attached importance to moral education and school discipline, and will not tolerate violations, nor will it tolerate any bullying.”

The statement goes on to say that the school had launched an unspecified “crisis management mechanism,” and had also informed the Education Bureau, the school’s management, and its church. It adds that administrators were arranging to meet the parents of the boys in the video, and that their resident social worker and psychologist will be contacting the students involved.

The outcry comes hot on the heels of a previous bullying scandal at another high school in Ma On Shan. In late January, Yan Chai Hospital Tung Chi Ying Memorial Secondary School was accused of turning a blind eye towards bullying on campus after three videos appeared online in a single week showing boys being harassed by classmates.

Bullying has become something of an epidemic in Hong Kong. A report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based on a 2015 survey found that, out of the 53 countries and territories surveyed, Hong Kong had the highest reported levels of both verbal and physical bullying, with nearly a third of students reporting being bullied in some fashion “at least a few times a month.”

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