National education a lost cause for CY

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 4:04am

Wow, what a display of people's power over the weekend? What started as a debate over the new subject of national education has become a full-blown political crisis. For the government, it's no longer merely a matter of whether or when to introduce the subject, but how to ditch it without losing too much face and credibility.

You're in serious trouble if tens of thousands of protesters bring their children to occupy the government headquarters. National education becomes a lost cause as soon as thousands of parents and teachers start accusing the government of brainwashing our children. Never mind that as currently conceived, it is really no more than a mild form of patriotic teaching. But in this climate of democratic lynching, a catchy phrase or a rallying cry is all that's needed to launch a successful anti-government campaign.

Officials should recognise a political defeat for what it is and quickly cut their losses. Otherwise, the September 9 Legco election threatens to become a single-issue race, thereby putting the DAB and any pro-establishment candidates at a dangerous disadvantage.

I tip my hat to the secondary school kids who call themselves Scholarism. I would not want to get on their wrong side. They helped stage the weekend protest and hunger strike and have outflanked political old-timers and mainstream politicians from Michael Tien Puk-sun to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and DAB boss Starry Lee Wai-king, making all of them look foolish and humiliated when they tried to visit the protesters and hunger strikers.

The students have shown extraordinary discipline and organisational skills. With momentum on their side, they and their parent supporters have not budged, leaving officials like Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim to offer concession after concession.

They were well-supported. As an observer at the rally said: "Twelve or so new tents with additional canopies were erected overhead. The array of drinks and snacks available [to protesters] would put 7-Eleven to shame." Not to mention the stage, sound and visual systems professionally assembled in record time.

The government faces certain defeat over national education by a powerful political force.