Schoolchildren are to undergo “conditioned emotional response assessments” as a part of the proposed “moral and national education” curriculum, now merely optional for schools to enact, after it was hastily walked back by CY Leung’s government after widespread protests and hunger strikes in the territory last week. How would schools conduct these assessments? Would scores in patriotism be determined by how many tears roll down a student’s cheek when they spot a Chinese national flag? According to the government’s guidelines, schoolchildren will also be taught to identify the Yellow River as the Mother of all Chinese people. This means that evidence of some filial emotion will also be required by stern-faced examiners standing before a picture of the surging Yellow River. A few cc’s of tears is the minimum requirement for a pass. Weeping will be rewarded with merits. North Korean-style high-pitched wailing will guarantee a distinction, although this will be an easy job if you are well-informed enough to know that 70 percent of China’s rivers, according to official statistics, are badly polluted. The Yellow River is too remote from Hong Kong for our youths to feel any stirrings of emotion. While the Shanghainese are more used to embracing the Yangtze for that Oedipus complex, and the Amur River would be your thing if your ancestors came from Manchuria, we Hongkongers are more likely to be in tears only at sighting Victoria Harbour. The River Thames with the skyline of the Big Ben and Parliament behind it comes second, given our historical link with Britain. The Pearl River that has fed our water supply? Unlikely, because we have been paying costly fees for this water. No mother ever charges her baby for breast-feeding and expects filial gratitude in return. A few teardrops over the wrong river could cause confusion among the students as much as their examiners. And what about those Indian Hongkonger schoolchildren born here with Cantonese as their native tongue? Patriotism classes would have been mandatory for them too. Forcing them to shed a tear over the Yellow River instead of the Ganges is likely to end up with the Chinese teacher being dragged to the Equal Opportunities Commission, where he will struggle to explain, perhaps in the presence of a staff member from the Indian Consulate, why he thought switching a holy river that was supposed to be a target of emotional loyalty would be as easy as changing one’s favorite dish from curry to char siu, and that now he regrets how wrong he was. So it was a relief to see the hunger strike outside the government headquarters ended all of this with CY’s climb-down, and a bowl of overdue char siu rice for each of our hunger strike heroes. Chip Tsao is a best-selling author, columnist and a former producer for the BBC. His columns have also appeared in Apple Daily, Next Magazine and CUP Magazine, among others.