To enjoy freedom, learn its limits

Education Bureau warning to students not to engage in independence advocacy is both necessary and long overdue

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 10:22pm

The laws are not just for deterrence and punishment, wrote the 18th century enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu, but for public education as well.

The Education Bureau has written to more than 500 secondary schools as well as universities to advise staff and students not to promote Hong Kong independence, join illegal societies, take part in their activities or assist them in any way. Joining groups such as the banned Hong Kong National Party could be considered a criminal offence, it said.

This is not only a long-overdue warning, but a necessary step to make sure students don’t commit to Hong Kong independence. Students should be educated early on the first principle of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the constitutional requirement of the Basic Law, which is that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.

Hong Kong’s unity with the rest of China is part of a larger national unity that embraces the whole of the country. This is a core value of the nation, which dictates both domestic and foreign policy. It may not be the core value of America or the West, but it is ours. It’s part of the Chinese cultural DNA, evolved and learned from both ancient and modern Chinese history of national disasters.

A crime to associate with banned separatist party, schools reminded

In simple terms, unity is good and disunity is disaster.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The US supports the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. These are core values we share with Hong Kong, and that must be vigorously protected.”

Hong Kong does and must protect “the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association”, but these freedoms do not override the demands of national unity; they cannot be used as fig leaves to cover separatism.

In recent years, some secondary school students have taken up the banners of independence. Some people have said they ought to be allowed to do so to learn to think critically.

That’s nonsense. Most people don’t commit to a position, political or otherwise, by weighing its pros and cons, and arrive at a rational decision. They do so though learning or pressure from peers, influence from the media, and/or because a doctrine, spurious or not, meets their emotional and prejudicial needs. Critical thinking in theory is irrationalism in practice.

Young people need guidance. If they need to learn about “the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association”, they should also be taught their limits and gradations.