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.
Leung Chun-ying wrong on national education, unionist says
Veteran unionist Chan Yuen-han accuses chief executive of wrongly linking national education curriculum protests to Legco election
Newly elected Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) legislator Chan Yuen-han yesterday accused Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying of misjudging the row over national education lessons.
The veteran politician said Leung had mistakenly linked protests against the curriculum to the Legislative Council election and criticised him for overlooking the protesters' concerns.
"[Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying viewed those people based on political ideology. He thought they had [political motives]. In fact, it was not the case. He misunderstood it … It was wrong," she said in an RTHK news broadcast yesterday.
Chan last week won one of the five "super seats" in the new functional constituency for district councils with 246,196 votes to make a comeback after losing her Kowloon East seat in 2008.
She said: "There are many different groups [of people] in Hong Kong. They are not necessarily supportive of or influenced by political parties. They include most parents … and youngsters."
She also echoed concerns voiced during her election campaign. "I feel that people are angry about the [national education] content, like one should shed tears when he or she sees the national flag … I criticise such a curriculum [too]," she said.
The unionist warned that the row was not yet over and urged the government to have further discussions with opposition groups and not to label them.
After days of mass rallies and hunger strikes outside the government headquarters in Admiralty calling for the withdrawal of the moral and national education course, Leung announced on the night of September 8 that schools would have the power to decide whether and how to launch the programme.
But opposition groups persisted in their refusal to join the government-appointed Committee on Implementation of Moral and National Education.
Meanwhile, human rights group Socialist Action said yesterday it was mobilising students to join class boycotts on September 26 and October 10, although teachers' unions had yet to get approval from their members on the potential strike action.