National education in Hong Kong

Scholarism hunger striker tells Hong Kong to fight national education

Kaiser is a normal teenager - except when on hunger strike. He says protest is in the blood

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 3:47am

With his backpack, paint-splattered khaki pants and flip flops, Kaiser seems like a typical Hong Kong teenager.

He loves comics and music, especially the songs of deceased local rocker Wong Kar-kui.

But this 18-year-old, who uses just the one name to avoid identifying his family, is a staunch political activist.

He joined the anti-national-education student group Scholarism in May, but has been in the fight from the beginning.

Kaiser was one of the first three protesters to go on hunger strike in the battle against the subject in Hong Kong education. But if he was tired from a full week of school on Friday he did not show it. Kaiser was ready for another night at the rally, excited to be back at "Civic Square" outside the government's headquarters in Admiralty.

Asked why he was standing against the national education curriculum, he said: "This time, the government is wrong.

"I am not against national education. I'm against the national education curriculum proposed. My understanding is our children should be taught the full story and given the whole picture - not fed a doctrine."

Kaiser spent three years at a leftist school, where "we didn't have Christmas, but celebrated Mao's birthday instead".

So, was he exposed to a degree of brainwashing himself?

"No, I am a special case," he said. Classes in school were not always interesting, so Kaiser set about researching other areas of contemporary Chinese history.

Of the 5,000 years of Chinese history, he focused on June 4 and the Cultural Revolution, using books and the internet to learn. Then he got into trouble for encouraging classmates to join the June 4 candle-light vigil and a move to Chong Gene Hang College ensued.

But even Kaiser approached the hunger strike with apprehension before Scholarism decided it was the best method of protest, being non-violent while still showing real commitment.

"There were not a lot of people willing to do it, so I decided that I probably should," he said.

A refusal to accept doctrine is in Kaiser's blood.

His grandparents were in the huge flow of people who came to Hong Kong in the 1940s to escape the communists; his parents were born and raised in then colonial Hong Kong.

After the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, his family's mistrust of the Chinese communists only ran deeper. Kaiser's father took him to June 4 candlelight vigils from a young age.

"I didn't understand what was happening," he said. "It was only later, when I read up on history, I understood the importance.

"The previous generation ran away from [communism] to Hong Kong. Now we are accepting what they ran away from."