Pro-establishment educator Christine Choi Yuk-lin stole the limelight from incoming ministers on Wednesday after she was tipped to be the next undersecretary for education, the bureau’s No 2. Choi ran as lawmaker for the education functional constituency in the Legislative Council elections last September but lost heavily to pan-democrat Ip Kin-yuen – 18,158 votes to 45,984 – so her appointment would upset opposition ranks. The new education minister, Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, formerly the department No 2, refused to confirm Choi’s posting. “The search process is still going on,” he said. Incoming chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had raised eyebrows just a day earlier by promising to step up national education to nurture a sense of an “I am Chinese” identity among young people from as early as kindergarten. The remarks have renewed concerns that Lam would try to bring back national education – labelled “brainwashing” by critics – after plans were shelved in 2012 amid public opposition. Pan-democrats feared Choi would be assigned to carry out such a task. But Yeung said national education had not ceased in schools after the protests of 2012. Hong Kong’s new cabinet revealed with plenty of familiar faces “Different school activities have in fact been carrying elements of national education,” he said, adding it would be left to teachers to decide what format this took. He defended Lam’s remarks by saying that elements of national education could appear “naturally” in kindergarten curriculums. “He or she starts to learn about his or her identity in respect of family, society and nation. It’s just natural that in teaching activities, some area of national education could come naturally in the curriculum,” Yeung said. The all-so-familiar cabinet of Hong Kong leader in waiting Carrie Lam Lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung of Demosisto said it would be “a slap in the face of voters” if Choi became undersecretary after her defeat in the Legco elections. And lawmaker Charles Mok called on Lam to think twice before appointing her. “It would only make it harder for the government to carry out its education policies,” he said. As of 9pm on Wednesday more than 1,500 people had signed an online petition opposing Choi as undersecretary for education.