Protesters in Hong Kong have occupied the plaza in front of the Legislative Council Building in Tamar, Hong Kong. They object to the introduction of pro-China lessons that have been added to the national education curriculum. Monday marked the first day children returned to school. It also marked the first day trial classes were held with the new material.
This is a marked escalation of earlier protests when the changes to courses were first announced. (Read my earlier post, “Hong Kong Protest: “We Don’t Need No (Pro-China) Education!”)
The courses cover contemporary Chinese history, with an emphasis on nationalism and how the Communist Party keeps together a diverse nation – while also protecting its borders. The material makes no mention of the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. It also derides the multi-party system of the United States as ineffective. In short, this is a primer on Communist control.
In Mainland such changes to the education system appear to be taking hold. Weibo posts show a fierce streak of nationalism. The ideological indoctrination contributed to mass protests regarding the Diaoyu Islands held last month.
Material for Hong Kong was developed by National Education Services Center under contract for the Education Bureau. According to their website:
National Education Service Centre is funded by the Department of Education, the main purpose is to support teachers from schools to promote National Education to their pupils. It organises various workshops, lectures as well as field study across China. (Tel: +852 2898 0880)
According to The New York Times, the company’s senior leadership includes Tsang Yok-sing, the president of the departing Legislature and a co-founder and former chairman of the territory’s main pro-Beijing political party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
Tsang has a checkered history given his support of China. In one famous remark back in 2008 he was asked point-blank if he was a member of the Communist Party of China:
“Since the foundation of the DAB, I have been asked whether I am a Communist Party member many times. And I can say frankly, I have never answered this question. The reason is, Hong Kong people’s attitude to the concept of the Communist Party is very negative.”
Not only is the image of the Communist Party negative, the overall view of China has soured. According to University of Hong Kong polling, just 37% of Hong Kongers say they are proud of having become Chinese citizens after the 1997 handover, the lowest figure recorded since 2001.
To many the protest is against China. By 2047 the “one country, two systems” system expires and Hong Kong reverts fully to Mainland China. The teaching of national education will come then – if not sooner.
Until then Hong Kong parents will protest and drive for change.