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A students' representative wears a black ribbon at a press conference to publicise plans for a class boycott next Tuesday. Photo: Nora Tam

Academics and celebrities join Tamar protest against national education

Lecturers say national education should be shelved, and film guru joins hunger strike as rally gains momentum

The "Occupy Tamar" campaign against the introduction of national education has received a fresh wave of support from academics planning to boycott lectures, veteran activists and outspoken celebrities.

Riding on the movement's growing momentum, organisers are extending their campaign from the government headquarters in Admiralty to involve the whole city by urging supporters to wear black today.

And more schools have come under scrutiny from alumni about their plans for the subject.

More than 100 academics from universities and other tertiary institutions yesterday signed a joint statement in newspapers asking officials to shelve the Moral and National Education programme.

The government says the subject is intended to engender national pride, but critics say it is a brainwashing tool.

(SCMP video by Hedy Bok)

Some of the academics, including lecturers at the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University, said they were considering not giving lectures when term starts next week.

"We might hold assemblies to deliver civic education talks to students, instead of giving scheduled lectures," said Dr Chan Sze-chi, of Baptist University's religion and philosophy section.

Meanwhile, nine activists joined a hunger strike at Admiralty. They include film director John Sham Kin-fun, the former vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which organises the city's annual candle-light vigils in memory of the victims of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

This took the number of hunger strikers to 13, with two more quitting yesterday. One was Eric Ma Kit-wai, a professor of journalism and communication at Chinese University, who gave up after 50 hours when he fell ill.

Professional Teachers' Union deputy director James Hon Lin-shan, 63, passed the 120-hour mark at midnight. Campaign organisers said yesterday's rally drew more than 10,000 people.

Lew Mon-hung, a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and a supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, challenged protesters to join a debate on national education tonight.

But the convenor of student-activist group Scholarism, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, rejected his invitation on the grounds that they had other activities arranged.

Scholarism said 314 secondary schools out of the 524 in the city now had Facebook pages set up by alumni to run a petition urging their alma maters to ignore the controversial subject.

Meanwhile, celebrity attention helped push the campaign. On Wednesday, lyricist Lin Xi asked if Leung wanted a new song from him, entitled . He once wrote a hit, for Eason Chan.

Research institute the Hong Kong Transition Project found more than half of 1,308 people polled opposed the mandatory introduction of the subject.


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Academics and celebrities back the Tamar protesters