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.
Liaison office 'sought meeting on national curriculum'
The co-founder of the alliance that successfully campaigned against the national education curriculum has claimed that a close ally of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying tried to set up a meeting between herself and officials from the central government's liaison office.
Eva Chan Sik-chee, of the Parents Concern Group, makes the claim in Mums and Dads Go To Battle, an account of the row that led to the curriculum's withdrawal. She says a former assistant of Leung, Scott Cheng Hei-huen, tried to set up the meeting.
Chan says Cheng called her in September after 120,000 protesters had gathered for days at the government headquarters in Admiralty to protest against the curriculum, which they said was an attempt at "brainwashing".
"He said he was Scott and was phoning me on behalf of the liaison office," Chan said at the book's launch on Sunday.
She said she was in a meeting with other members of the group when Cheng called. She alleged he told her that Leung was already "out of the equation" on the controversy, and that the liaison office would like to arrange a meeting with her alone to bring her "good news".
But Chan said she rejected the offer because she believed the liaison office should not intervene in Hong Kong affairs.
A day after the phone call, Leung decided to scrap the three-year deadline for implementing the curriculum and announced schools would be free to choose whether to teach the subject.
Cheng was Leung's assistant when he was Executive Council convenor and during his election campaign last year. He left the job when Leung took office as the chief executive.
Cheng's cellphone was switched off when the South China Morning Post tried to contact him for comment last night.
Andrew Shum Wai-nam, a spokesman for the Alliance Against National Education, said he was at the meeting when Cheng called. He said the incident showed the liaison office had meddled in the city's affairs.
"It also shows that CY does not have real power," Shum said.
Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said the incident showed that introducing the national education curriculum could be a "political mission" of the liaison office.
A spokesman from the Chief Executive's Office said it would not comment because Cheng had not been employed by the Chief Executive since July.
The Education Bureau also would not comment.