The Hong Kong government has sought since 2007 to introduce "national education" courses into primary and secondary school curriculum, aimed at strengthening students' "national identity awareness" and nurturing patriotism towards China. The programme has met with increasing public opposition in recent years, with many in Hong Kong seeing it as a brainwashing attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to suppress dissent.
Letters to the Editor, September 11, 2012
Many HK citizens do not trust Beijing
Elsie Tu's letter ("Critics of new subject are so intolerant", September 6) makes interesting reading. However, I'm not sure whether Mrs Tu, or I, as foreigners should be commenting on what is after all a local Chinese matter.
As a young student in England, she says she was brainwashed, which may be correct. This was many years ago.
These days, British people are inclined to be cynical and not easily persuaded by politicians.
In China, this is happening very slowly.
People are taught about past Japanese atrocities and quite rightly so, but not about the horrors of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. Young mainlanders also know nothing about the Tiananmen Square atrocity. They have been brainwashed. It seems what the Hong Kong demonstrators were saying is teach the whole story, not just the parts the politicians want.
Mrs Tu says that as a result of British brainwashing, people wept at the thought of the Hong Kong handover to China in 1997.
It was the Chinese people's experience of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution that drove them from the mainland in the first place, and the thought that they might experience it again after 1997 worried many. I know; my mother-in-law was one who escaped and even until recently was reluctant to return, even for a visit.
Mrs Tu, after all these years please try to see things as they really are.
Ernest Evans, Mid-Levels
Material on course must be impartial
I welcome the decision of the government to back down on forcing students to take national education classes.
It is good that schools will now have the right to decide whether or not they want to introduce moral and national education as a subject.
I have been strongly impressed by the students involved in the Scholarism protests.
It shows that members of the younger generation are eager to think for themselves and voice their opinions rather than allowing themselves to be brainwashed.
It is clear that the views of these young people cannot be ignored any longer by the government.
The thousands who turned up to protest outside the government's headquarters in Central every day must have made it clear to officials that they cannot turn a blind eye to the views held in our society. Children are the future pillars of society and they must be allowed freedom of thought. If they had been taught national education that was biased towards Beijing, how could we ensure that they would grow up embracing a fair and just society?
Genuine patriotism should not be blind or superficial. It should seek to enhance students' sense of belonging to the nation.
When students have a deeper sense and understanding of a nation's history and culture, they will start to admire and appreciate it more. One way to achieve that would be through organised tours of schoolchildren to the mainland.
In schools where national education is adopted, the government must ensure that the textbooks used are not one- sided.
They should look at the successes and the failures of the nation and it should be left up to pupils whether or not they want to be patriotic.
I believe that if the content of the moral and national education subject is recognised as being impartial, parents, teachers and students might warm to it.
Isis Ching See-nga, Tsuen Wan
Government failing to curb pollution
Policy causes pollution and transport policy causes roadside pollution.
For a long time, Hong Kong has stuck by its "property plus trains" model as the backbone for transport planning, along with the building of more expressways to mitigate the effects of Hong Kong's chronic and worsening congestion.
This has resulted in the continued expansion of the urban rail system with the associated station malls and property projects managed by the MTR Corporation.
Also, between 2001 and 2010, the building of new expressways and of new property developments with parking, combined with subsidised roadside parking, has encouraged the registration of an additional 74,398 private cars. This brings the number of private cars to more than 415,000.
During the same period, efforts to reduce pollution have seen franchised bus numbers drop from 6,400 to 5,844, yet roadside pollution has worsened.
Looking at the Transport Department's latest environment section in the annual digest for 2011, its activities are still focused around dictating consolidation of bus routes in congested areas as the principal method of controlling roadside pollution, such as plans to take 32 bus journeys off Nathan Road per day.
In the meantime, the "everywhere, anytime" policy for private car drivers has resulted in snarling congestion across the city, which seems to result in the virtuous circle of ever more road and rail infrastructure projects to solve the problem.
When other cities have looked to reduce access for cars to urban centres and embraced bus priority schemes as a way to reduce pollution, why have our own property-developing MTR and road-building Transport Department not taken any meaningful steps to manage congestion in our city?
Edward Rossiter, Tai Wai
Mental patients get raw deal
Most Hongkongers are very hard-working and some even go to night classes to improve their knowledge.
However, many do not know how to alleviate the pressure they feel and develop psychiatric problems such as depression. Given that the number of psychiatric patients is on the rise, the government should at least increase manpower to cope with the cases.
It has been claimed that there are not enough psychiatrists in public hospitals, which means that patients can only get a few minutes for a consultation. There is also a long waiting list and this has led to fatal tragedies. Clearly, there are not enough doctors and nurses to deal with patients.
The government is depending too much on social workers who are the frontline staff to deal with people who have psychological problems.
However, while they do a good job, they are not specialists in the field of psychiatry and may miss people who are at serious risk.
There should be a public psychiatric clinic in each district in Hong Kong before we see another tragedy.
W. H. Chan, Kwun Tong
There is no excuse for tram bunching
It is generally accepted that Hong Kong is a safe city, and has no correlation to the frontier days of the so-called Wild West.
I wonder, therefore, why the drivers of the trams (that run around Hong Kong Island) seek safety in numbers, as if joining a "westward ho" wagon train. I frequently use the trams between Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Central, and find it is a far more enjoyable service than that offered by either the MTR or the bus companies.
However, I do question why it seems so difficult to avoid bunching.
As an illustration I recently waited more than 20 minutes at Causeway Bay for a westbound tram, then five arrived in a line. The first had "Happy Valley" as the destination, and thus was of no use to me; the second was for "Western Market" but was so crammed that I couldn't get on; the third was another "Happy Valley" with only a few passengers; the fourth was for "Whitty Street", which was also crammed but I managed to fight my way on; and the fifth was another "Happy Valley" which was completely empty.
As Hong Kong Tramways is now run by a French company, I am surprised that its service appears to operate according to Murphy's Law - as one may be patiently awaiting a tram bound in one direction, and watch a whole train of trams travelling in the other.
Christian Rogers, Wan Chai
Parents are right to be concerned
I am concerned that there has been some exaggeration of nutrient levels of some milk formula.
This is not an acceptable state of affairs and is obviously a cause of concern for some parents.
The government and the producers of formula have a responsibility to ensure this does not happen.
Producers must accept the principle of corporate social responsibility.
They must recognise the importance of ensuring the baby's health and if there are any problems with nutrients, they should be rectified straightaway.
There was a scandal connected with formula on the mainland and many babies became very ill.
Many mainland parents were obviously concerned about mainland-produced formula. Now, with these latest revelations on nutrients, Hong Kong parents are also concerned.
They are now worried about brands being safe to purchase for their child and feel that the food labels do not give them the information they need about nutrients.
I hope both the government and the producers can work together to rectify the problems that currently exist.
Chan Wing-lam, Tsuen Wan