Don’t be deterred by ‘patriotism’ rules

To be eligible for scholarships and other benefits, the central government now expects applicants to ‘love the motherland’. But with no real way to measure patriotism, why worry?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 1:27am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 2:17am

China takes patriotism seriously. Not only should one embrace the motherland and the government, no one shall do anything deemed harmful to national security, harmony and stability.

Increasingly, Hong Kong is also required to toe the line. From taking up key government posts to running for elected office, the same principle applies.

Intriguingly, it is being extended to students applying for mainland scholarships.

Under new criteria for an expanded scholarship scheme for Hong Kong, Macau and overseas Chinese students, applicants must “love the motherland” and “uphold the one country, two systems” policy.

Previous requirements, such as abiding by school rules, national laws and regulations, being an honest, trustworthy and moral person and gaining excellent grades in entrance exams, continue to apply.

The injection of an extra 15 million yuan (HK$18 million) a year into the scholarship scheme is part of the new measures rolled out by the central government to benefit Hongkongers on the mainland.

Beijing pumps US$2.27m into scholarships for Hong Kong and Macau students, but with strings attached

Other concessions include granting greater access to mainland jobs, school places and housing funds.

The new strings attached to the scholarship scheme may seem odd to a city where patriotism is still a work in progress.

After all, we do not require overseas students to love Hong Kong and China when applying for the local scholarships set up for the country’s “Belt and Road Initiative”. But in the mainland context, what appears alien to foreigners may well be the norm.

Hongkongers who work or study across the border are expected to abide by mainland laws anyway. Those who want to go north should not have problems with the new rules.

The real question is implementation. How can the authorities measure patriotism? Are students required to sign a declaration similar to candidates running for elected office? Are they bound by the rules after completing their studies?

The new measures are well-intentioned. A considerable number have already benefited from the scholarship scheme and acquired a deeper understanding of the country.

As long as the rules are clear, students should not be deterred.