Leung Chun-ying (CY Leung)
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A flag-raising ceremony at Gertrude Simon Lutheran College in Yuen Long on National Security Education Day on April 15, 2021. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Former Hong Kong leader CY Leung calls for improving ‘quality’ of young people

  • Leung Chun-ying says it would be academic to discuss city’s role in contributing to development of country if quality of population in question
  • ‘The quality of our people will decide the quality of Hong Kong and the value of the city to the country,’ he says
Former leader Leung Chun-ying has called for improving the “quality” of Hong Kong’s young people, starting with strengthening national education in schools and universities.

Leung, now a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top political advisory body, on Sunday said it would be academic to discuss Hong Kong’s role in contributing to the development of the country if the quality of the city’s population was in question.

“If Hong Kong wants to continue upgrading the quality of life for its people, and make contributions to the country, we only have our people to count on,” he said. “The quality of our people will decide the quality of Hong Kong and the value of the city to the country.”

Former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying. Photo: Nora Tam

Speaking at an online forum on education and national security organised by pro-establishment group Citizens Alliance Hong Kong, Leung added that the city needed to consider whether the talent it produced could suit the needs of the country.

Leung cited Chinese President Xi Jinping’s remarks on his “four hopes” made in 2018, when Xi was receiving a Hong Kong delegation in Beijing to mark the 40th anniversary of the nation’s open-door policy. The president said he hoped Hong Kong could play a more proactive role in helping the country open up further and integrate into the nation’s development while also partaking in the country’s governance and promoting international exchanges.

“Hong Kong has a bigger role to play, rather than, as some people say, trying not to give more trouble to the country,” Leung told the forum. “Hong Kong’s future depends on our young generation. The quality of the young people is determined by more than how well they are trained at schools or whether they can graduate with first class honours.

“We expect them to have basic ethical principles, like respecting teachers, showing obedience to parents … and it is also important that our young people, especially those in university, how they, as individuals, treat the collective … The biggest collective unit is the country.”

He stressed that education would be defective if national identity, security and patriotism were not included.

New rule kicks in for Hong Kong schools to hold regular flag-raising ceremonies

Leung added that many of city’s young people lacked a sense of national identity and did not feel an obligation to safeguard national security and love the country, citing the example of people booing the anthem during a World Cup qualifier event in 2015 when the Hong Kong team played against the one from mainland China.

In 2021, education authorities issued sweeping guidelines to bring Hong Kong’s schools in line with the city’s national security law, covering every aspect of schooling from management and teaching to pupils’ behaviour even off campus.

The online forum is an annual event hosted by the alliance, which was set up in 2019 during the peak of anti-government protests. Last year, the theme was electoral reform, while in 2020 it was about safeguarding national security.

Historians say Hong Kong educators should take care with difficult subjects

According to its website, the group aims to serve as a platform for those who “love the country and love Hong Kong” and a channel of communication among various civil groups to build up a force to counter the opposition camp and support Hong Kong and the mainland.

Other guests who spoke at Sunday’s three-hour event were Professor Vincent Kwan Pun-fong, a former adviser to the now-defunct government think tank Central Policy Unit; Dr Tso Wung-wai, former local deputy to the National People’s Congress; and Dr Thomas Leung In-sing, a Canada-based pro-Beijing scholar.

A number of pro-establishment social media influencers also spoke at the event.