Hong Kong Youth Commission chairman Bunny Chan renews calls for national education

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 March, 2015, 11:35am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 March, 2015, 2:05pm

National education should be introduced to Hong Kong despite criticisms from “part of the community”, the outgoing chairman of a government-appointed youth body said on Friday.

Youth Commission chairman Bunny Chan Chung-bun said “something would be missing in children’s growing up” if the curriculum were not introduced.

“Some people have been critical of national education. But one aspect will be missing without it,” Chan told a DBC radio programme. “That aspect may affect their future development,”

Chan, who also chairs a newly established, Beijing-backed army cadets association, said young people should be given a broader outlook in their knowledge of the country.

“I think young people need different perspectives,” he said.

National education has been a controversial issue in Hong Kong, with students, parents and teachers fearing that it could be turned into a course to “indoctrinate” young people.

The government backed down on plans to introduce the course in all schools in the face of massive protests in 2012 by opponents who described it as tantamount to brainwashing.

The question here is whether you don’t do something just because they don’t like it
Bunny Chan

Earlier this month, Executive Council member Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun came under fire from educators after she suggested that incoming teachers should spend a month in mainland China learning about the nation in order to be qualified to teach back home.

Chan said the government should also not focus only on the opposing views to national education and examine the issue from a different angle.

“If we turn down something because of opposition from two students or parents, then we are depriving the remaining 98 students or parents of the chance of receiving that thing,” he said.

He likened the state of affairs to a choice to be made by the organiser of a training camp for youngsters.

“For example, in many of our training camps, two days, one night, you ask the students what activity they like most. No doubt they would say ‘barbecue’. And you ask what they don’t like most. Their answer must be ‘marching’.”

“The question here is whether you don’t do something just because they don’t like it,” he said, adding it required more “political energy” on the part of the government to implement national education.

The army cadets group chaired by Chan is the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association. Its inauguration in January was marked by a secretive ceremony held in the restricted area of the People’s Liberation Army navy base on Stonecutters Island with the few members of the media invited all having close ties to Beijing.

Chan said there were “many misunderstandings” over the ceremony and that it was originally not intended to be opened to any media outlets. He did not elaborate further about what the misunderstandings were.

The association has the backing of government leaders and Beijing’s representatives in the city, and boasts Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, wife of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, as its “commander-in-chief”.