Hong Kong imposes sweeping pro-China curriculum on schools

  • The measures, announced late Thursday, seek to inculcate patriotism to kindergarten-age children through “story-telling, role-playing, drawing, singing, dancing and other activities.” Students as young as six will be taught to memorise offences criminalised by the national security law.
FILE PHOTO: Children play before taking part in a specialized class preparing toddlers for kindergarten interviews in Hong Kong, China May 17, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Children play before taking part in a specialized class preparing toddlers for kindergarten interviews in Hong Kong, China May 17, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo(REUTERS)
Published on Feb 05, 2021 04:00 PM IST
Copy Link
Bloomberg |

Hong Kong ordered schools to adopt a more patriotic curriculum and advised teachers to report any breaches of the city’s national security law, the government’s biggest move yet to overhaul the education system following the protests of 2019.

The measures, announced late Thursday, seek to inculcate patriotism to kindergarten-age children through “story-telling, role-playing, drawing, singing, dancing and other activities.” Students as young as six will be taught to memorize offenses criminalised by the national security law, which was imposed on the city by China last year, including subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers. The curriculum will cover all subjects from geography to biology.

“The fundamentals of national security education are to develop in students a sense of belonging to the country, an affection for the Chinese people, a sense of national identity, as well as an awareness of and a sense of responsibility for safeguarding national security,” Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said in a statement.

The new curriculum may also impact Hong Kong’s approximately 52 international schools, which largely cater to the city’s expatriate population. The government statement said that international schools have the “responsibility” to help their students “acquire a correct and objective understanding” of the law, without elaborating.

No international school Bloomberg reached out to was available for immediate comment.

Cutting off ‘Black Hands’

Beijing has blamed Hong Kong’s education system for fostering dissent and fueling the months-long protests opposing the Chinese government’s increasing power over the former British colony. Hong Kong authorities have previously vowed to “cut off” the “black hands” -- including teachers -- deemed insufficiently patriotic.

The Hong Kong government attempted to introduce a patriotic education curriculum in 2012, but shelved the decision following massive protests. The latest attempt to do so will bring the financial hub further in line with the education system in mainland China, where students are, for example, required to study the teachings of President Xi Jinping.

University and high school students comprised a majority of the frontline protesters in the 2019 unrest, and people under 18 represented almost a fifth of the roughly 10,000 arrests made as of last December, according to data complied by Bloomberg. Students also organized protest activities including forming human chains and class boycotts, actions forbidden under the new rules.

Ip Kin-yuen, a former lawmaker and a vice-president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, said that the new guidelines are “not conducive for learning or fostering the development of young minds,” and that in an environment where people are trying to avoid getting into trouble “the natural response will be self-censorship.”

Owl video

As part of its promotion materials, the government produced a 7-minute animation featuring an owl explaining the concept of national security, saying it covers all aspects of Hong Kong society including culture, cybersecurity, and ecology. The video also says that it’s the “right and duty of the Central Authorities to enact the National Security Law,” and that other countries have similar laws.

Garrie Chow, a father with three children in Hong Kong schools, said the new curriculum means that students are “not allowed to have independent thinking.”

In September, the English Schools Foundation, which operates 22 international schools in the city, released and distributed a 15-page set of guidelines directing teachers to tell students that the classroom isn’t a “safe space” for discussion or debate of the national security law, the South China Morning Post reported. ESF did not immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.

Migration wave

The imposition of the new curriculum could add to the already surging number of people emigrating to places like the UK and Taiwan. Some parents and teachers have cited Beijing’s growing control over Hong Kong schools as a major reason for leaving.

Jojo, a 37-year old Chinese and special education teacher who would only give her first name due to security fears, said she is seeking to relocate to the UK later this year, joining thousands of others who have already done so via a pathway made available to Hong Kong holders of the British National (Overseas) passport. She is part of a WhatsApp group with 120 other local teachers that helps educators obtain the skills and certifications needed to secure employment in the UK

“The students will have to follow along (with the rules), but it will severely impact their personal relationship with us,” Jojo said. “They won’t trust us.”

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • A view shows a Huawei logo at Huawei Technologies France headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, France. (REUTERS/ FILE)

    Canada to ban China’s Huawei, ZTE from 5G networks over national security concerns

    The Canadian government announced on Thursday that it is banning Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE from its fifth generation (5G) infrastructure to protect national security. In the 21st century, cybersecurity is national security.

  • The weapons used are believed to include a mobile laser system first announced by Vladimir Putin in 2018 and which, Russia claims, can blind orbiting satellites as well as destroy drones.

    ‘Peresvet' and ‘Zadira': What we know about Russia's new laser weapons

    Russia on Friday claimed to have used powerful laser weapons in its brutal war on Ukraine; Moscow said the 'next generation' weapons had been used to burn up drones launched by Ukrainian forces. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky appears unworried (for now) and has taunted Russia, comparing the laser weapons to 'wonder weapons' promised by Nazi Germany to stave off defeat in World War II.

  • File photo for representational purposes.

    Four people stabbed in south-east Norway, police say

    At least four people have been stabbed and injured in random attacks in Numedal in south-east Norway, local police said on Friday. One of the victims was in critical condition, and the incident was still ongoing, police added.

  • Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said he absolutely supports Imran Khan's February visit to Moscow. 

    Watch | Bilawal defends Imran Khan's Russia visit, says: ‘No one has 6th sense’

    Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari defended former prime minister Imran Khan's visit to Moscow which according to Imran Khan was the reason behind his ouster as the United States was not happy. In his maiden visit to the US, Bilawal addressed a press conference in New York and said he completely defends Imran Khan's visit to Russia as there was no possibility that Imran Khan would have known about Russia's plan to invade Ukraine.

  • OTAN beer cans are seen on the production line at the Olaf brewery poses on May 19, 2022 in Savonlinna, Finland.

    Cheers! Finland NATO application celebrated with special beer | Video

    When Finland decided to seek NATO membership on Sunday, the owner of a small brewery in Savonlinna, Petteri Vanttinen, 42, decided to celebrate by launching a new beer in honour of the military alliance. Savonlinna, which lies only 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the Russian border, has always been a battleground between East and West. When Vanttinen went to bed on Sunday evening, he still wondered whether the beer was a stupid idea.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, May 20, 2022