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In contrast, another activist who has been rejected, Rocky Li adopts a less conciliatory tone. He says the application refusals must be related to the anti-national education stance of a few concern group members, while the other alumni whose applications are on ice have just become embroiled in the dispute. Varsity contacted the school for a response but was told the person responsible could not be reached.

Unable to make any headway with the alumni association, Li directly approached the school’s sponsoring body, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. The sponsoring body supervises the school’s Incorporated Management Committee (IMC), which is responsible for school planning, management and formulating education policies.

By going directly to the sponsoring body, Li bypassed the complex hierarchy of the school structure. Unexpectedly, the sponsoring body supported him and even invited him to join the IMC.

Looking back on the long-running dispute, Li says: “I feel like a group of senior successful alumni with high social status are monopolising the MFS Alumni Association.”

If the big education story of summer 2012 was the row over national education, then summer 2013 was marked by the controversy over the decision by some elite government-aided schools to join the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS). St. Paul’s Secondary School (SPSS) and St Stephen’s Girls’ College (SSGC) were among the most prominent.

At a press conference held by St. Paul’s Secondary School
At a press conference held by Anti-DSS concern group of St. Paul’s Secondary School

Betty Wah Shan, 33, is a St Paul’s old girl and the spokesperson of the Anti-DSS Concern Group (SPSS). After SPSS applied to join the DSS last December, alumni who had been active in the anti-national education campaign met up again and formed the concern group against DSS.

Although she was not previously a member of the alumni association, Wah says she now wants to join and reform its role. “Alumni associations used to act like a social club, holding farewell functions and raising funds. But after national education, I think alumni associations should have a different role; there should be more voices within the associations to deal with different issues,” says Wah.

Wah says the youngest committee members in the SPSS alumni association are graduates from the years 2004 to 2006. In comparison, the anti-DSS concern group members include younger graduates, who only left the school three to four years ago. She anticipates the younger generation will volunteer to join the alumni association and bring fresh perspectives.