Hong Kong Curriculum Controversy Exposes Tension w/ Beijing

Attempts by the Beijing government to take a tighter grip on the education curriculum in Hong Kong might have come to nothing in the end, but the issue exposed an undercurrent of tension between the party ruling the China mainland and the territory that nominally reverted to its control nearly 15 years ago.

Global Voices Online traces the evolution of the national curriculum program that the Hong Kong government recently attempted to implement in elementary schools that included a mandatory class on the advantages of the one-party political system. Many residents viewed the effort as an attempt to indoctrinate the youth into the Communist Party. After protests, which included threats of hunger strikes, the three-year deadline to put the curriculum into place was scrapped and the decision on whether to use it or not was returned to school administrators.

The initial mentions of the national curriculum, meant to tie the education systems of Hong Kong and mainland China closer together, came during remarks by President Hu Jintao on the ten-year anniversary of the reunification in 2007. Three years later, the term was back in circulation and was mentioned during a policy address by the HK Chief Executive Donald Tsang.

But the public was unaware of the policy until May 2012 when Scholarism [zh], a student activist group, organized a rally demanding the withdrawal of the curriculum.
On July 29, 2012, a civic coalition composed of Scholarism, the Parents Concern Group and the Professional Teachers’ Union, co-organized a mass rally against the curriculum; since then the anti-national education campaign has become a common agenda of Hong Kong society.

The negative feelings about the national curriculum were, in part, fed by the general distrust of the mainland government by residents of Hong Kong. As Wong Kwok-kui explains, people are worried that when the content of what is to be taught and what is to be skipped is dictated by Beijing, history of the territory’s sometimes-turbulent relationship with the mainland could be white-washed.

There is a saying within the anti-national education camp: “We do not reject national education, but the content should not be biased and should mention controversial subjects such as the June 4 crackdown…”. Such a position means you agree with the opponent’s premise and ready to negotiate for the substance later. The situation is similar to the Greek’s Trojan horse story: the guards allow the wooden horse enter the city without checking what’s inside. This is dangerous…