HONG KONG -- A group of 10,000 demonstrators has surrounded government headquarters in Hong Kong to protest a controversial new National Education class being introduced in schools this fall. The course, the protesters argue, is just the latest example of Beijing’s attempts to control political discourse in the city.
The government in Hong Kong claims it simply wants to boost students’ knowledge of and attachment to China. But the push to ensure that Hong Kongers are sufficiently patriotic comes straight from Beijing. Indeed, Chinese President Hu Jintao suggested introducing just such a course following huge street protests that toppled Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Tung Cheehwa in 2005. And backers admit the course is modeled on patriotic education classes taught on the mainland.
Simmering local discontent over the plan boiled over when a sample course outline was released this spring. The curriculum omits any mention of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the Cultural Revolution. It also portrays the Communist Party as a “progressive, selfless and united government,” and suggests that multiparty systems “cause conflict and victimize the people.” Critics charge the course textbook primarily focuses on how China has suffered historically at the hands of foreigners, in order to create a sense of victimhood and deep nationalism among students.