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.
Scrapping national education 'an option'
Discussion of ditching subject 'inevitable', says head of panel set up to smooth its introduction
All options will be considered by the government-appointed advisory body on the controversial national education curriculum - including scrapping it.
The panel's head, executive councillor Anna Wu Hung-yuk, said it may also produce a "minority report" to reflect disagreement among members to the administration.
Her latest remarks, in a TVB interview, contrast with what she said on Wednesday when she was appointed to head the Committee on the Implementation of Moral and National Education. Then, Wu declined to respond to questions on whether the committee - set up to look into difficulties in introducing the curriculum and screen teaching materials - would consider ditching the subject.
"We have not yet set out the agenda," Wu said yesterday. "Whether it [national education] should continue or be scrapped after a three-year introduction period, I believe this topic will inevitably come up for discussion.
"If there is any disagreement from the committee members or other parties, we can compile a minority report to reflect their views to the government." But campaigners against the subject said Wu's comments did not signal a shift in the position of the government, which wants to launch the subject in primary schools next month. It would become a compulsory subject in primary schools in 2015 and in secondary schools the next year.
"The scope of power of the committee remains unclear," said Amy Lai Pui-ying, a member of the Parents Concern Group on National Education, which opposes a curriculum that would be overtly nationalistic. "The public still cannot not learn what the government's policy is simply based on Wu's remarks."
Shum Wai-nam, a spokesman for the Civil Alliance Against National Education - which plans to stage a sit-in at government headquarters next Saturday - accused the government of being insincere about engaging in discussion with opponents of the curriculum. He said: "Most committee members have already expressed their support for national education, so how can we trust this advisory body?"
Wu reiterated that for the next three years, schools would be free to decide when and how they started teaching the subject and said the committee may call for an extension of the trial period.
There are 528 local primary schools in the city. The Catholic diocese, which runs 110, last week instructed its primary schools not to introduce the new subject.
Schools run by the Buddhist Association and Tung Wah Group of Hospitals have already decided to delay introducing the subject until at least next year.
The Methodist Church, which operates 19 primary and secondary schools, said its schools already taught elements of national education in existing classes and would not introduce it as an individual subject this year.