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Carrie Lam

Incoming leader Carrie Lam wants to teach Hong Kong children ‘I am Chinese’ from kindergarten

Chief executive-elect vows to pay close attention to rise of independence ideas and step up national education

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 2:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 5:14pm

Hong Kong’s incoming leader has vowed to pay close attention to independence advocacy in the city and counter it with strict law enforcement as well as stepped-up national education to nurture a sense of “I am Chinese” identity among youth from as early as kindergarten.

Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has maintained that calls for separating Hong Kong from China have no mainstream support, told Chinese state media that she would still take separatist ideology seriously.

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“I believe the absolute majority of Hongkongers have never felt that Hong Kong independence is a viable option,” she told the official Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television.

“In future, the [local] government will ... strictly enforce the law against any acts for Hong Kong independence that breach local laws.”

Lam was speaking after several former mainland officials who oversaw Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 commented on the issue in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the handover.

No 3 state leader Zhang Dejiang issued a stern warning against separatism in a high-profile speech last month, urging the Hong Kong government to enact its own national security legislation, which is overdue and required under the city’s mini-constitution.

Lam is expected to announce her cabinet line-up on Wednesday. She will assume office on July 1.

Hong Kong’s next leader Carrie Lam promises bigger part for youth to play in making policies

In the Xinhua interview, Lam also said her administration would explain to the public the harm separatism could do to the stability and prosperity of the city, especially the impact on children and teenagers.

During the chief executive election in March, Lam stated her hope for local youth to become a generation who would have affection for Hong Kong, a sense of national identity and a global vision at the same time.

Asked to elaborate on her remarks, Lam said: “An affection for Hong Kong and a national identity are not mutually exclusive. We can let children learn more about Hong Kong’s history, culture, politics and social development, and at the same time we must make them have their national identity.”

To achieve this, she proposed instilling the idea of “I am Chinese” in children starting from kindergarten, and making Chinese history a compulsory subject in junior secondary-school level.

Ip Kin-yuen, lawmaker for the education sector, said existing Education Bureau guidelines already suggested kindergartens should introduce to students the concept of being Chinese, but he questioned Lam’s emphasis.

“Her stress on the need for reinforcement leaves people wondering whether there’s something more. Will children be taught to glorify the regime, for example?” Ip asked.

Lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung, one of the leaders of the Occupy protests three years ago, said he was worried that Lam would try to bring back “brainwashing” national classes after it had to be shelved in 2012 because of fierce public opposition.

Law added that people enjoyed freedom of speech and should not be prosecuted for merely talking about independence.

Meanwhile, Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, criticised some local activists for forging closer ties with Taiwan independence advocates.

Occupy Central was the “greatest power struggle” since the handover, Chen told Hong Kong media, as protesters were challenging the authority of the national legislature’s decision to impose a tight framework for democratic reform in the city.