Leung stands firm despite climb-down

By Liang Chen and Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-10 1:55:03

The Hong Kong government's change of stance on the controversial national education policy, which came about after mass protests over the weekend, has met with mixed feelings on the mainland where experts have argued in favor of patriotic indoctrination and raised questions about the way this kind of education should be carried out.

"Hong Kong is a part of China. It is not controversial for students to get to know their country by learning about it," Hong Kong's chief executive Leung Chun-ying said during a press conference on Saturday.

In view of the public objections, schools at all levels will be able to decide the manner in which they carry out the course as well as the time frame, Leung added.

He stressed that under the new policy, the previously set deadline - which would have required schools to launch the course within three years -would be revoked, while calling for public support for schools willing to start the course.

"The national education policy is absolutely not a political mission … as people have speculated," Leung asserted.

In response to the chief executive's promise, the Hong Kong Alliance of Anti-patriotic Education ended its 10-day sit-in protest in front of the government building Saturday midnight.

From late July, Hong Kong people started protesting against the course which they claimed might "brainwash" their children at a young age and hamper their independent thought, according to Hong Kong media.

Yuan Guiren, China's Minister of Education, said Thursday that the program is open for discussion but patriotic education is universal in all countries and regions.

"It is unreasonable for some people to oppose national education," Zhang Yiwu, a professor of cultural studies at Peking University, told the Global Times. "It's necessary for every citizen to know his nation's history, current situation, culture and political system, no matter whether it's in China or in the western world."

One of the books, entitled China Model, distributed to Hong Kong schools in July, encourages students to learn about China's natural resources, national situation, culture and history.

It also encourages students to engage in broad discussions on disputed issues, like the control of online content, food safety scandals and the high-speed railway crash incident, among other issues on the Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong authorities have been making efforts to instill a sense of national identity within the younger generation since Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997.

The "Moral and National Education" policy was opened for public discussion during the ruling of the previous government and was released to the public in April.

"The protests against patriotic education in Hong Kong show that the Hong Kong people tend to avoid the influence wielded by the mainland," said Zhang, adding that many immigrants who went to Hong Kong in the 1960s and 70s were strongly against any topic related to patriotism.

Wang Hongcai, an education expert at Xiamen University, agreed that such an education policy is a must, especially among the young generation in Hong Kong, noting that it should be promoted step by step.

"The authority should first launch trial lessons in some schools and universities, and then promote it across the region after it receives positive feedback," Wang said.

Wang added that in terms of the administrative approach, it would be unwise to promote it across the region as a whole.

Some critics singled out part of the textbook which hails the Communist Party of China as a progressive, selfless and united organization, saying it confuses patriotism with love for the Party.

While some mainlanders voiced their support for the protests in Hong Kong, many also said they were impressed by the inclusiveness of the book.

"It's quite good. It aims to construct one's correct values. It covers everything from history, geology to moral education and culture, and I bet those who are protesting against it have never cast a glance at it," Chen Hong, CEO of China Everbright Securities International Limited, said on his Sina Weibo account after he browsed through the book.

Leung's decision came one day before Hong Kong's Legislative Council hosted its quadrennial election, which saw a marked increase in voters compared to the previous term.


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