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 turns down invite to attend anti-national education rally
Organisers disappointed at chief executive's refusal to attend planned protest against subject
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has turned down an invitation from City University to attend an anti-national education rally of students and teachers on Wednesday.
Lee Chak-man, spokesman for the university's Anti-brainwashing Alliance, said: "Leung is the previous City University council chairman. We want to tell him that although this is his home court, students, teachers and academic staff do not accept his reaction to anti-national education."
He also said Leung's decision to scrap the three-year implementation period for the subject was confusing the public.
"When the sentiment [against national education] is not that high, the government may promote the subject again," he said.
Lee expressed his disappointment at the chief executive's refusal to join the rally, but said it could prompt a bigger turnout. The organisers, an alliance of student and teacher groups, are expecting about 1,000 people to join the rally on the university's campus, beginning at 1pm.
Last week, more than 8,000 students and teachers held a citywide class boycott and joined an anti-national education rally at Chinese University.
Dr John Tse Wing-ling, chairman of the City University staff association, said a marathon hunger strike was planned to back calls for the total scrapping of national education. Tse said many members, even retired professors, had expressed an interest in taking part.
Meanwhile, the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong, which represents about 200 schools in the city, said it would not introduce moral and national education.