NPC deputy fuels debate
Lo Wei and Tony Cheung
A National People's Congress deputy says it is not necessary to include mainland activist Li Wangyang's death and the Tiananmen Square crackdown in the national education curriculum, as the outcry against the proposal intensified.
Maria Tam Wai-chu said yesterday that students could learn about those events - which stirred international controversy - through news reports, so they should not be included in teaching materials for the subject, which is set to be introduced in primary schools in September.
Tam, who is also a Basic Law Committee member, said the two events deviated from national education's focus, which was to teach pupils about China's political system.
'[The events of] June 4th  and Li Wangyang are not related to 'one country, two systems', so there is no need to include them,' Tam said after an event to launch a book on the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover and the Basic Law.
Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim said last week that he and colleagues had discussed whether the Tiananmen crackdown should be included in the syllabus.
Parents, teachers and students have voiced opposition to national education, fearing it will 'brainwash' students with lessons that cast the central government in a favourable light. An alliance of 16 groups, including the Professional Teachers' Union and Scholarism, said yesterday that police had approved the closure of three lanes on Hennessy Road for their protest this Sunday calling for the scrapping of national education.
The Hong Kong Christian Institute's Andrew Shum Wai-nam, one of the organisers, expects over 10,000 to join the march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to the government offices in Admiralty.
The Liberal Party staged a protest and handed a petition against the subject to the Education Bureau yesterday. Miriam Lau Kin-yee, the pro-establishment party's chairwoman and an NPC deputy, acknowledged the launch was 'too rushed' and called for more consultation. 'We are not against national education,' she said. 'But we find many biased areas in the teaching materials.'
Meanwhile, a war of words broke out between concerned parents and the Education Bureau over the plan. In an opinion column in a Chinese newspaper yesterday, Eva Chan Sik-chee, organiser of a parents' group, rebutted the education secretary's defence of national education published on the bureau's website.
Ng argues in favour of the subject on the basis that there will be no grades for it.