National education in Hong Kong

Carrie Lam defends Chinese minister’s call for national education in Hong Kong

Top official ‘surprised’ by strong opposition from lawmaker who said education chief should avoid commenting on city’s policies

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 3:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 10:29pm

Hong Kong’s leader said she was “surprised” by the strong local opposition to China’s education chief’s call for the city to focus on national education, and urged the public not to view his remarks with a jaundiced eye.

Education minister Chen Baosheng, speaking to the Post and RTHK in Beijing on the sidelines of the Communist Party congress, called for a stronger sense of national identity among Hong Kong’s teachers and reminded the government of its duty to implement national education.

Ip Kin-yuen, an opposition lawmaker from the education sector, slammed Chen as having crossed the line, saying the minister should abide by the “one country, two systems” principle and avoid commenting on the city’s education policies.

The one country, two systems model under which Beijing governs Hong Kong guarantees the city a high degree of autonomy.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor, speaking before the weekly meeting with her cabinet on Tuesday, said she was surprised to find Ip and others looking at the “care and support” from the mainland officials through “coloured glasses” – a Chinese expression meaning to view something with prejudice.

She said Chen’s remarks did not constitute interference in the city’s affairs. Rather, they were aligned with what she had laid out in her maiden policy address.

Referring to her policy blueprint delivered earlier this month, Lam said young Hongkongers should be nurtured into citizens with a sense of national identity.

She said the education bureau would decide on policies, starting with a new rule to require all secondary schools to teach Chinese history as an independent compulsory subject.

Act on national education for the young, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told by Chinese minister on Beijing visit

Recalling her meeting with Chen in Beijing this August, Lam said the minister had promised the ministry would spare no effort in helping the city address “all questions” and respond to “all requests” on education.

One of the topics discussed was on making it more convenient for Hong Kong students across the border to remain there and work, she said, suggesting that a closer relationship with the mainland would open up more opportunities for local youngsters.

National education is a contentious issue for Hong Kong. The government was forced to shelve plans to make it a compulsory school subject in 2012 in the face of strong opposition from parents and educators, who raised fears that pupils could be “brainwashed”.

Responding to Lam’s defence of the education minister, Ip said he would let the public to decide whose judgment was right.

Ip stressed that Chen’s comments, in particular the needs for local teachers to understand China “in a correct way”, were more like directives rather than general truths.

“Mainland officials should refrain from commenting our internal affairs while the [Hong Kong] officials should uphold the [one country two systems] principle and safeguard our high autonomy,” he said.