The Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) announced on Tuesday that it is disbanding, around a week after the government severed ties with the body as it came under attack by state media.
In a letter to its members, the union described the decision to disband as “unwanted and difficult”, but said it was one made after “much contemplation and reflection”.
“Over the years, close to half a decade, HKPTU, together with its members, and all the people in Hong Kong, have witnessed numerous historical moments. However, it is deplorable that the social and political environment has undergone very radical changes and we are forced to ponder for the future, particularly when the pressure of the recent drastic development is so immense,” it said.
“We have been attempting by all means to explore ways for the continuation of our services and operation. However, our endeavours yield no avail and soluble plans to settle risks can hardly be formulated.”
The union said it would stop its recruitment and membership renewals, and would no longer comment on or participate in social events.
Its 200 members of staff were to be laid off and its estate sold. The union said its centres in Mong Kok, Causeway Bay and Tsuen Wan would remain open until all the goods have been sold, while its medical centres will soon end their services.
At a press conference, the group’s president, Fung Wai-wah, thanked members for their support over the years.
The group announced just last week that it was setting up a unit to help teachers understand Chinese history, culture and national affairs, a gesture that was widely seen as an olive branch to the authorities.
But Fung admitted that this approach did not work.
“The situation over this past week did not improve. The criticisms were still coming from all sides, and the pressure was still high. We can only say that our hard work last week failed to work,” Fung said.
He also said that it would be up to members and the public to judge who is responsible for the union’s demise.
The government earlier announced that it would stop working with the union, describing it as “no different than a political group” and accusing it of having encouraged students and teachers to join anti-government protests.
The government’s move came soon after state media attacked the pro-democracy group and called for it to be eradicated.
The PTU was founded in 1973 by late democracy activist Szeto Wah, in response to a salary cut for certificated teachers.
Representing almost 100,000 members, the PTU was not just the largest teachers’ group in Hong Kong, but also the biggest union for a single profession.
The group had recently quit the Confederation of Trade Unions, and it earlier also left the Civil Human Rights Front and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, both of which used to organise major protests in the territory.
Pro-Beijing figures have accused these organisations of violating the national security law.