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.
Minister blames previous government for national education woes
Minister blames last government for not addressing parents' feelings over issue
Stuart Lau and Dennis Chong
The education minister has blamed the previous administration for failing to address students' and parents' feelings during consultations about national education, which later led to emotionally charged protests against the government.
"You might have the best policy on earth, but when you do the implementation, make sure you address not just the rational part of the policy, but also the emotional part of it," Eddie Ng Hak-kim told an audience at a Foreign Correspondents' Club lunch.
"Don't ever overlook the response, knowledge [and] information required by parents and students. These are the two areas where we were running a little bit short in the first round of consultations."
Ng helped shelve the proposed curriculum last month.
The Moral and National Education Ad Hoc Committee under the Curriculum Development Council held a consultation from May to August last year, while Michael Suen Ming-yeung was education minister.
It was not until the school year neared in September this year that opposition voices snowballed, with protests during and after the summer holiday.
After 120,000 people rallied outside government headquarters on September 7, Ng noted that the fight ceased to be a purely rational one. "It's basically just emotion," Ng said.
Meanwhile, responding to recent reports about a campus of the International Montessori School being forced out by a youth-hostel developer, Ng said the Tin Hau institution should be able to continue running.
"I talked to my colleagues in the Home Affairs [Bureau] and the Development Bureau, and then I understand lately ... the district council would likely keep the status quo," Ng said.