Fears resurface over the possible realisation of an education system that may brainwash upcoming generations.
Photo credit: Students and workers sit together during a strike in Tamar Park on 2 September by Don North.
The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council is driving hard for the introduction of national education, pushing the Hong Kong government to move it up among its top priorities. In light of the ongoing public disorder, he infers that protesters’ anti-mainland actions are indicative of a need to push for the cultivation of national education and awareness. In 2012, the proposal to implement the Moral and National Education triggered an uproar, which included a 10 day siege of government headquarters with tens to hundreds of thousands recorded in attendance. They accused this system of being a tactic to influence opinions of future generations in favour of the Chinese government. The proposal was shelved, but repeated advocacy from the HKMAO creates concerns about its returns.
“It is just another attempt to brainwash students,” says Alex, a construction engineer in HK who was a student in the public education system from kindergarten until the completion of his undergraduate degree. “At this time when the trust of the government is at the bottom…many people like me are 100% sure it’s just another political task, especially after endorsement by Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.” During his time in primary school, the classes provided already taught children about HK and its society. “In terms of values, moral quality, and ethnic identity, kids pick these up in daily life.” For the proposed curriculum itself, the previously published guideline contains a number of grey areas, further supporting suspicions that the program is a manipulative mechanism.
According to surveys published from 1997-2019 on the HKU Public Opinion Programme (POP) Site, Hongkongers who identify exclusively as such (instead of as a Hongkonger in China or Chinese in Hong Kong) increased from 35.9% to 52.9% – nearly 20% since 1997. In contrast, those who identified as “mixed identity” went down from 43.5% in 1997 to 35.8% in 2019.
Action Free Hong Kong Montreal, an educational group who advocate for democracy in HK, referred to these results to indicate that Chinese nationalist sentiments were higher without the need of national education. They also note that in the current political climate, “putting the national education as a top priority in HK will only fan the flames of distrust.” Hongkongers’ heightened distrust of the Chinese government would make the “brainwashing effect” of the education program ineffective. In addition, the diverse and free flow of information and constant critical eye on both Chinese and HK government actions would make it harder to indoctrinate students into a political agenda that contrasts with the values of HK’s social reality.
HKMAO’s statement suggested to push forward the national education program once the city returns to its business as usual. Seeing as things have yet to settle down over 100 days in, this proposition will just have to wait.
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