National education in Hong Kong

HK-based journalists from mainland label national education 'brainwashing'

Two Hong Kong-based journalists from mainland say national education lessons are a bid to stifle freedom of thought and will lead to 'brainwashing'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2012, 9:12pm

Hong Kong-based journalists drew on their own experience of education on the mainland yesterday to warn that national education lessons will become a form of brainwashing if implemented in the city's schools.

Journalist, writer and publisher Hui Kei told a forum that critics of national education, which the government says is needed to engender national pride, were right to fear it would be used for indoctrination.

Fellow journalist Zhang Jieping urged the city to protest against the subject, which will become compulsory at primary level in 2015 and in secondary schools from 2016.

"There is no question national education is brainwashing education - but it will be a subtle type," Hui said at a talk on national education organised by the iSun media group in Yau Ma Tei. "The most dangerous thing is that it will take away one's ability to think for oneself. If national education goes through, it will cripple the next generation. They won't be able to think … It will damage our freedom of thought."

Hui said his primary and secondary education had led him to love the Communist Party and the country. But his patriotism was dented when he saw a documentary on the June 4 crackdown in Tiananmen Square, which led him to realise that he had never been given the full picture.

The seeds of doubt only grew when, on a visit to Taiwan, he saw that even national hero and "father of modern China" Sun Yat-sen was not above criticism. On the mainland, though, not a bad word could be uttered against the party. "I realised that we were taught and conditioned to think a certain way - that is brainwashing," Hui said. ."

Zhang, who came to Hong Kong to study for a master's degree seven yeas ago, said: "We hope Hongkongers can stand up against this: to fight for what we in the mainland couldn't fight for - say no to brainwashing."

She spoke of how mainland children were presented with a one-sided view of the country's trials and tribulations. "People should have the choice whether to love one's country or not, like loving a person," she added.

"National education is packaged to not look like brainwashing, so Hongkongers will be willing to have a trial run. But once thoughts take root, there will be no turning back."

Zhang said true national education would involve telling the next generation the full story of their ancestors, their country's history, and teaching them to think critically.

Members of local student group Scholarism, which helped organise a big demonstration against the introduction of the subject last month, also spoke against it.

"It's funny that [Chinese history is] not compulsory, while national education has to be," said Scholarism member Ivan Lam Long-yin. "We love our country, and we want to learn more about it - we are not against being educated on its history, but we are against brainwashing."

Zhang and Hui both said knowledge of China should be taught through history lessons - covering Hong Kong history as well.