Tens of thousands of Hong Kong parents are protesting a new civic education curriculum from Beijing that an official admits is tantamount to brain-washing.
Demonstrators shouted slogans such as: “We want independent education back! We want critical thinking!” as they protested over the weekend.
Protest placards borrowed lyrics from Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall: ”We don’t need no thought control … leave those kids alone.” Families waved a poster reading: ”Our previous generations came here to escape the Communist Party, don’t let the next generation return to the grip of the demon.”
”I’m Chinese but China is not the Communist Party,” said Cyrus Chan, 16, a student in a Catholic high school. He said he joined the protest because he thinks national education will be political indoctrination focused on the party’s achievements, and blind to catastrophes that claimed tens of millions of lives in the 1950s and 1960s. ”Germans are taught about Nazi crimes. They know what happened. In China, students only learn how to praise the party,” he said.
The new textbooks give a ”very crude patriotic, nationalistic propaganda,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong:
Eva Chan, one of the protest organisers, said teaching guides for national education contained a pro-Beijing bias that was “terrifying”.
“As parents, what we fear is that the course would discourage objective and independent thinking about China,” said Ms Chan, a mother of two young girls:
Course materials made available to schools include a teaching manual describing the Chinese authoritarian government as “progressive, selfless and united” while assessing the US system as one that allows politics to disrupt the lives of ordinary people, and a prescriptive guide on how to be a “good child of China” that directs children to shout out in class: “I am proud to be a Chinese”…..On Saturday, the chairman of the China Civic Education Promotion Association of Hong Kong further fuelled anger with his comments on national education.
“If there are problems with the brain, then it needs to be washed, just like dialysis for kidney patients,” said Jiang Yudui.
“All education is, to some extent, designed to brainwash,” said Wong Chi Man, who directs the National Education Services Centre. “I think the word ‘brainwash’ is too negative. It evokes something out of ‘Clockwork Orange.’”
Sunday’s protest underscored rising anti-Beijing sentiments, China Digital Times reports:
A poll released by the University of Hong Kong last month showed the number of people in the former British colony identifying themselves as citizens of China had plunged to a 13-year-low. More identified themselves as Hong Kongers.
China Digital Times is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.