The summer’s protests against government plans for patriotic ‘National Education’ come amidst a perfect storm of anti-China sentiment ahead of the 2012 Legislative Council Election on September 9th. Suspicion of Beijing and disdain for new leader CY Leung are both at an all-time high. Earlier this year we saw a record turnout at the annual 6/4 rally, housing scandals, dozens of ‘anti-locust’ and mainland mother protests and widespread anger against the crackdown on Chinese dissidents. It appears the new Chief Executive has forgotten what became of Tung Chee Hwa, who lost all imperative to rule following similar large-scale protests and property scandals in 2003.
The new ‘Moral and National Education’ subject was set to be implemented in primary schools this week with secondary schools following next year. There are concerns that it paints a glossy picture of the Communist Party whilst ignoring important historical events such as the Tiananmen crackdown (which, emotionally and politically, is to Hong Kongers what 9/11 is to the Americans.) The SCMP reported that “In a school teaching guide for primary two pupils, teachers are instructed to ask students to say loudly, “I am happy to be a Chinese” if they agree.”
On the evening of September 4th, 8,000 people were gathered at LEGCO. They borrowed the Goddess of Democracy statue from the organisers of the annual Tiananmen vigil. Earlier in the year, 90,000 people protested in July with a survey by the Scouting movement revealing that 60% of students and parents were worried about ‘brainwashing’.
Going viral this week, ATV has been airing conspiratorial nonsense more akin to what we’re used to seeing from the mainland (or even the DPRK). In what is meant to be part of their news programming, they suggest Britain and the US are actively interfering in HK politics by backing a ‘destruction group’ in LEGCO. This obstructionist block includes Scholarism, the group of ‘malicious teenagers’ behind the national education protests who are hell-bent on ‘increasing the fame’ of the ‘destruction camp’. Citizens are apparently ‘repulsed’ by them as they each risk ‘destroying their soul, academic careers and future’.
The SCMP reports that no less than 10,000 Hong Kongers have complained to ATV. “It is understood that the programme is under the charge of Louie King-bun, a former senior editor of leftist newspaper Ta Kung Pao, which ran a front-page report with a tone similar to that of ATV Focus yesterday.”
Pro-mainland rag Wen Wei Po invites residents to see through Scholarism’s ‘theatrical‘, ‘radical‘ ‘political demagoguery‘ with ‘scant respect for civic morals, the rule of law and public accord‘. Of course, no evidence is provided of any such law breaking. And China Daily claims it’s all a terrible misunderstanding.
Meanwhile, the Chinese characters for brainwashing and Leung Chun-ying have been filtered on the mainland and Badcanto blog reports on how many Hong Kongers fear their national education record will follow them around for life.
In a two-part interview, the new education secretary – widely disliked by local teachers – is interviewed by Michael Chugani. Part 2 can be found here.
A third large demonstration of the summer was held over the weekend. Organisers claimed 40,000 protesters, hunger strikers, parents, children and teachers surrounded LEGCO on Saturday whilst the police estimate 8,100 – the truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere in between…
Teacher strikes are being threatened and hunger strikers have vowed to continue indefinitely.
Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School in Sha Tin is one of the just 8 schools which has embraced the subject and began teaching it yesterday in lieu of bible studies – protesting parents were left in the dark…
Teachers at the school have claimed privately that they are only teaching the ‘moral’ segments of the new subject and may drop it if the Baptist Convention recommends so. On Tuesday, September 4th, “the General Secretary of the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong, the Reverend Peter Tsui… said the government should withdraw the subject, and the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong did not agree that a separate subject should be established specifically for national education.”
Another school adopting the subject is Fresh Fish Trader’s Primary in Yau Ma Tei. It is likely this school fell in line as they have been repeatedly threatened with closure having failed to attract enough P1 entrants.
Ethnic minorites also have concerns…
The protests have enjoyed international coverage with one Facebook user collating global reports under the heading ‘The World is Watching’…
Signs of a government u-turn were officially scuppered by CY Leung in a statement on September 4th, whilst Basic Law Committee vice chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie dramatically claimed that the hunger strikers would provoke ‘anarchy’.
- Hong Wrong’s photos from Saturday’s protest
- Official Scholarism website
- China Smack: Mainland netizen’s reactions to the summer’s protests
- New York Times: Plan for change in schools stirs protest in Hong Kong