Leung's e-mail on national education fails to persuade
Emily Tsang and Olga Wong
A mass e-mail sent by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's office to company managers and academics defending the national education programme has received a chilly response.
The existence of the e-mail, which sought to rebut criticism that the subject amounts to brainwashing, came to light after staff posted Facebook messages saying their managers had received it.
Leung's office said the e-mail was sent on Monday as part of the government's usual practice of reaching out to various people in society, but it refused to disclose the number and identity of the recipients.
One person who did receive it, Chinese University political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung, described it as junk mail. 'The e-mail is apparently a mass propaganda e-mail,' he said. 'I do not think it will be useful in clearing doubts about national education.'
The message was sent from a private address, email@example.com. It included seven questions and answers about the controversial new subject, including one that 'clarified' it would not become compulsory until 2015 but could be taught voluntarily in primary schools when the new academic year starts next month.
It said there was no need for teachers to avoid sensitive matters and that they could choose their course content freely.
Parent activist Eva Chan Sik-chee, who did not receive the e-mail but later read it, said the arguments did not address concerns. 'All these are old arguments that we have already heard, there is nothing new for them to explain,' Chan, convenor of the National Education Parents' Concern Group, said. 'It only shows the government has a strong stance and is determined to push forward a subject about which the public has repeatedly voiced doubts.'
Choy said the office had been sending him mass e-mails since Leung started his election campaign, with content varying from the appointment of new ministers to a transcript of remarks to the media. So far he had received at least 30 e-mails.
Political analyst James Sung Lap-kung said the strategy was ineffective, as the message had been sent to corporate mangers and scholars instead of those directly concerned, such as pupils, parents and teachers.
An editorial in the Communist Party's mouthpiece, People's Daily, on Sunday argued that the curriculum would correct Hongkongers' lack of knowledge about the nation.
Yesterday Jiang Yu, deputy commissioner of the Office of the Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong, backed the national education programme.
'Many foreigners are interested in China as a country with 5,000 years of history and a quarter of the world's population,' she said. 'It is good for young people in Hong Kong to know more about the country.'