Exco member dissents on national studies
Dennis Chong and Jennifer Cheng
Schools should not be required to make national education a compulsory subject in three years, says Executive Councillor Anna Wu Hung-yuk - the first dissenting voice in the government's advisory body.
Wu said the government should show some 'political wisdom' to resolve an issue that has triggered a big protest tomorrow.
'I personally think that there is no problem in relaxing a little bit,' she told Now TV News in an interview broadcast yesterday.
But last night other executive councillors, including Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, Cheung Chi-kong and Cheng Yiu-tong, backed the government plan, which will see schools start lessons or preparations this September. Cheung Chi-kong said the government must stand by what it thought was right, while Cheng said protests were irrelevant because the policy had been thoroughly debated.
Critics say the lessons could brainwash future generations into believing Communist Party propaganda. But Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim reiterated in a television show yesterday that the lessons would not indoctrinate children. If fears of a brainwashed generation were realised then 'I would condemn them myself', he said.
Thousands of parents, social workers, children and students are expected on the march to government headquarters in Admiralty. While Ng has avoided calls for a public debate, he agreed yesterday to meet representatives from one parents' group today.
Student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung said that the recent publicity campaign was reminiscent of the government's push to bring in state security laws in 2003. 'They keep saying we should trust them,' he said, branding such remarks 'cosmetic'.
Meanwhile, Chinese University vice chancellor Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu became the first university head to speak out, saying authorities must listen to the public before considering when to introduce the subject into public schools.
On Thursday, Exco convenor Lam Woon-kwong said the controversy arose from the fact that critics mistrusted the government.
Under government plans, primary schools must make national education a compulsory subject by 2015. Secondary schools have until 2016.