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.
Beijing should 'restrain' destructive critics in Hong Kong, says Global Times
The Global Times, a popular Beijing-based conservative daily, has argued in an editorial that the central government should take measures to "restrain the devastating destructive force" of its critics in Hong Kong.
"If it is not acceptable for Hong Kong children to sing 'I love the national flag' and national education is insulted as 'brainwashing', the Basic Law faced danger of being tampered with," the nationalistic paper wrote in the editorial. "Of course we will not allow this to happen."
The daily is affiliated with the People's Daily, the Communist Party's most important publication, but its views do not necessarily reflect the Communist Party's official views. It also published a similarly worded editorial in its English-language edition.
The Global Times has previously condemned Hong Kong advocates of the city moving towards more social and political autonomy. Last year, it equated - in veiled references - the Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement with separatist groups in some of China's more restive regions, including Tibet and Xinjiang, and also in Taiwan.
"Everyone in Hong Kong" should be clear that the city "cannot get out of the 'one country' framework", the paper wrote on Wednesday. If disputes "are blown up", then "appropriate countermeasures" should be taken, it argued.
"The result will be that 'I love the national flag' will continue to be sung in Hong Kong's kindergartens," it concludes.
"There is a denial that a patriotic person can be critical of the government", said Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong. "This is the line pursued by the pro-Beijing press every day in Hong Kong."
For Cheng, the paper is reacting to a perceived trend in Hong Kong public opinion. "According to public opinion polls, Hong Kong people's identification with the nation and their trust in the central government has peaked in 2008," he said "Since then, the trend has been reversed and the pace has increased over the last months."