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.
Henry Tang says young protesters deserve respect
Former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said he “highly respected” the youngsters who staged a 10-day protest against the introduction of national education outside the government headquarters and hoped they could maintain their passion to serve the city.
And he said the government’s action showed it was listening to what the public wanted.
After casting his votes on Sunday morning, Tang said it was important to draft teaching material that was fair and comprehensive and that “the devil is in the details”. He also said the government should be constantly reviewing its policy on national education.
The protest outside the government headquarters in Tamar, Admiralty, which saw tens of thousands of people attending each night, ended at 1.30am on Sunday morning. The move came after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying scrapped the three-year deadline for implementation of the subject and announced schools would be free to choose whether or not to teach national education, which some branded as a brainwashing tool.
Tang, who ran for the top job against Leung, said the national education issue was “a good chance to let the government hear the people’s voice better”.
“I passed by the government headquarters on Friday in my car,” he said. “I saw a lot of young people defending Hong Kong’s core values and the freedom of speech in their own way.
“I highly respect our youngsters, who have a sense of responsibility and high expectation of the city’s future.”
He said national education was not a problem, but the core of the matter should be how the teaching material was drafted.
“It’s most important to have teaching material that is comprehensive, in-depth, objective and fair,” he said.
Tang said the government could amend or cancel a policy it inherited from the previous chief executive’s term after reviewing it.
“We can see this government has been listening to the public’s voice. It made concessions bit by bit,” Tang said.