- Posted September 5, 2012 by
Hong Kong, China
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Hong Kong Will Never Be The Same
- Anika3, CNN iReport producer
Hong Kong Will Never Be The Same
5 September 2012
by P H Yang Photography (phyang.org)
Caption for photo 1: A Sea of Democratic Umbrellas
A lone reporter from Asia Television (ATV) reports as thousands of protesters brave the frequently heavy rain.
Click here for more images.
"Hong Kong will never be the same," observed S M Tsui.
The senior retired journalist and a friend writes columns in several popular newspapers and magazines plus a daily blog on current affairs, media and culture (in Chinese) and enjoys a wide following.
For three days in a row, about 10,000 students, parents, teachers and citizens have gathered every evening outside the Hong Kong Government Headquarters near Admiralty (police cited around 4,200) to protest against government's recent introduction of a national education curriculum which many deem pro-Beijing and is opposed by 52% of the population, according to a recent poll by the University of Hong Kong.
Many camp outside the government offices occupy-style in support, including 10 adult hunger-strikers who follow the three secondary (high) school students who struck for 3 days.
The Education Bureau intends to start national education classes to foster Chinese identity, to primary (grade) schools this September and extends to secondary schools from 2013 and phase in the lessons over three years.
The curriculum is similar to the patriotic education program taught on mainland China. At the heart of the controversy is a manual titled “China Model,” which describes the Communist Party as “progressive, selfless and united” and criticizes that multi-party systems inflict troubles on their citizens. Even when Hong Kong has a multi-party political system.
Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim admitted that some of the contents of the manual distributed to the schools by his Bureau is biased but refused to retract it or the national education program.
Jiang Yudui of China Civic Education Promotion Association of Hong Kong explained, “a brain needs washing if there is a problem, just as clothes need washing if they’re dirty, and a kidney needs washing if it’s sick.” That added fuel to the fire.
Even CY Leung, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, admit that not all the materials are ready and available but insist that the program must go ahead as planned despite strong opposition from a broad spectrum of the community. This reinforces the rumor that national education is one of his four political missions from Beijing.
The other three missions include enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's Mini-constitution, that "prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion," etc, against Beijing; reining-in of government-owned Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) which considers itself part of the independent press and criticizes as well as lampoons the government quite frequently; and introducing reforms leading to a directly elected Chief Executive and Legislature that would be acceptable to Beijing (probably with a high entry threshold or pre-screening by an small election committee).
Leung, of course, vehemently denies that such political missions exist. The government has been trying to assure the public that the new curriculum is simply an extension of civic education and not a brainwashing exercise.
These protest gatherings resulted from intransigence by the government after 90,000 took to the streets on July 29. Police counted 32,000. Many parents join the rallies and protest for the first time ever as they feel that the future of their children to think critically is being threatened.
All these were sparked by a 15 year-old student, Wong Chi-fung, who founded the Facebook group Scholarism with a following of 121,000 by last count. It is "the social movement from the last few decades with the most angry, broadest support and the most involved participation," said Tsui.
"Led by secondary school students, it is rational, with easy to understand tangible benefits and eclipsing movements involving confrontation with police and blocking traffic led by post-80's and -90's groups; and entirely different from foul-mouthed internet groups," opined Tsui. "Government has no alternative but to retract the program, admit they are wrong and even change the officials involved."
Meanwhile, Leung's credibility has been challenged after his home was found to have illegally built structures and his development secretary stepped down due to corruption investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruptions (ICAC).
As Hong Kong heads for the upcoming election for the Legislative Council this Sunday, September 9, the political implications of this tug-of-war between the Leung government and the people will soon be revealed.