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.
Anger runs high, teacher strike likely, national education activists say
It was likely that students and teachers would go on strike as emotions against the national education curriculum were intensifying, an activist alliance said as classes across Hong Kong started on Monday morning.
Eva Chan Sik-chee, convener of the National Education Parents’ Concern Group, said in a radio interview that a strike would require Hongkongers to be “frightened and angry enough”, and those emotions had been building up in the past few days.
“Scores of alumni are petitioning to scrap national education, and it emerged in the past few days that some teachers were told to sign a confidentiality agreement concerning the subject’s teaching material in a school. All these are stirring up people’s emotions,” she said. “We were reserved in a strike before because we were not sure whether we could arouse more parents’ concerns.”
Activists who camped outside government headquarters at Tamar in Admiralty said they would continue their hunger strike indefinitely if the government did not abandon the curriculum by 5pm, but the authorities showed no sign of giving in.
Chan said the government’s responses were frustrating. “It’s pretending that it can’t see us or can’t hear our voices. There’s no way to wake up a person who is pretending to be sleeping.”
(Video: Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School (BLMCPS) in Sha Tin is one of the eight primary schools in Hong Kong starting national education lessons on Monday. By Hedy Bok)
She said parent Linda Wong Shui-hung, one of the 10 people who went on a hunger strike after the three teenagers from Saturday night, had started to feel dizzy. Chan said she was surprised when Wong said she would go on a hunger strike, because Wong had hardly rested before the night, busily organising the demonstration in Tamar in which scores of people turned up.
People called into the Commercial Radio programme to show support to the activists’ cause, with one caller in his 60s vowing to join the crusaders and go on a hunger strike if the government insisted on going ahead with the curriculum by the 5pm deadline.
Chan said he was touched by Hongkongers’ growing concern on the issue. She became emotional when she heard the man, a retired teacher surnamed Ho, saying he would go on a hunger strike.
Ivan Lam Long-yin, one of the three 18-year-olds who went on a hunger strike, said sometimes he felt hopeless as the government seemed unmoved whatever they did. But there is hope because of the support of people in the city, he said.