National education in Hong Kong

Opposition to national education grows with protest

And hundreds of pupils return to ‘Occupy Tamar’ site after class rather than go home

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 9:56am

(SCMP video by Hedy Bok)

A young university student spiritedly strumming his guitar after four days without food; an elderly unionist-teacher suffering from similar hunger pangs; a secondary pupil who travelled from Sha Tin after sitting a test in the morning; a woman who shaved her head in an anti-brainwashing act; a retired civil servant.

These were among the faces massed outside government headquarters yesterday to oppose national education, along with some better-known ones such as Joshua Wong Chi-fung, 15, who has become a media star since helping found the Scholarism student movement.

Guitar-playing City University student Gil Wong and Professional Teachers' Union deputy director James Hon Lin-shan, 63, were among four hunger strikers who passed the 96-hour mark at midnight.

Three others, among a dozen who had fasted for different times, passed the 48-hour mark at the same time. They were surrounded by about 200 campers in the "Occupy Tamar" movement who were there to support them.

One, Heidi Ma, a 17-year-old student stayed five of the past six nights in the camp.

Hundreds of secondary pupils who started school on Monday rejoined the protest instead of going home after classes.

Charles Tsang, 16, one of 500 who have signed up for Scholarism, travelled from his Sha Tin school to Admiralty after sitting a test yesterday morning.

"I believe I should do something for society, instead of myself," Tsang said, when asked if the movement would hinder his preparation for university entrance exams in a few months.

Workers, retirees, the disabled and parents with toddlers were also among the people cramming in the square.

"I seldom joined political events before, but now we're pushed into a corner," retired civil servant Steven Hung said. "It's the government that has politicised the whole matter."

The protest took a twist yesterday morning when a middle-aged woman shaved her head.

The woman, a former journalist who identified herself only as Linda, explained that in Cantonese the phrase for "no hair" - mou fat - sounded identical to the words for "lawlessness".

The only hair left on her head spelled out the characters "anti-wash" - a clear reference to brainwashing, as critics have labelled the national education course.

"I demand that the government stall the national education course," Linda said. "I hope to express my belief through my body language."


Adding support to the national education protest

Sally Lu, retired

Hongkongers' needs are very simple: a stable life with freedoms. We live to create progressive - not regressive - thoughts and ideas ... [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying first doled out sweeteners, like more houses, but later forced us to accept something no one wants.

Charles Tsang, 16, student

Scholarism's tactics first seemed to me to be too soft. But later I found more and more people touched by its members. It has really softened up people who would otherwise question the need for opposition.

Beth Chiu, psychologist

I don't usually take part in social movements, but this time I just have to. I am touched by what these teenagers are doing. I don't see many adults joining the assembly here and so as an adult, I felt a strong urge to come and support them.

Hon Lin-shan, 63, hunger striker

I have been on hunger strike for more than 80 hours and I am as fit as a bull. Many teenagers have been inspired to join the hunger strike. As an adult, I need to protect them and so I decided to join them.

Jackie Chan, student protester

I don't want the government to brainwash the younger generation. This just makes me angry. My parents don't want me to camp here but I insisted.