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.
Pro-national education protesters march on Admiralty
Hundreds of parents and students marched through busy streets yesterday in support of national education - the second big event in a week to support the controversial subject.
Proponents of the curriculum have been fighting back since the policy was all but dropped by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying amid widespread protests from parents, teachers and opposition lawmakers, who likened it to "brainwashing" of children by Beijing.
Waving banners and Chinese national flags, participants chanted "support national education" and "give us back the right to learn" as they marched from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to government headquarters in Admiralty. The organisers, Caring Hong Kong Power, said there were 1,000 participants, but police estimated the turnout was about 600.
"We like to let the government know that anti-national education is not the only view in Hong Kong," a spokeswoman for the group said. "There are also many people who want national education.
"As Chinese, it is absurd that we should refuse to know our country. The critics are not only against the subject, they are against anyone who disagrees with them."
Caring Hong Kong Power is a loosely organised group initiated last year by online forum users. They say they aim to counter the growing "anti-everything" sentiment in Hong Kong.
Also in the crowd yesterday was Andrew Fung Wai-kwong, a former core member of the opposition Democratic Party. He attended another pro-national education rally outside the government headquarters last week. "My position is very simple and clear," Fung said. "I support us learning about China in a comprehensive and objective way."
Fung quit the party in June after he was criticised by the party leadership for having expressed his intention to join the Leung administration.