The issue may be one on nationality – but it’s a complex and long-drawn cultural divide that needs to be bridged.
Born from a state that was a former British colony I can, on one end sympathize with the view on offer by the Global Times below.
In fact, those who oppose to it are likely to be more “brainwashed” by the Western ideology, as Hong Kong used to be a British colony. That’s why they were so vigilant against the course. They were seeing China from a Western perspective. (Global Times editorial)
That said I would also beg to differ. Having lived in and visited those in the global cosmopolitan cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, the markedly different behaviours expressing ‘Chineseness’ as ethnicity and culture are clear, perhaps more pronounced when compared to one from the mainland. But even then that is not a fair statement as China’s 7% minority of its 55 ethnic minorities suggest there is no easy way to distinguish a homogenous Chinese identity.
I suspect Hong Kongers are as likely to retain their Eastern ideologies in ethnicity and culture but also equally embrace Western ideologies in organising society and progress. In particular, the right to universal suffrage . It is unlikely the majority are wholly brainwashed by Western ideologies, but that is fodder for another story. As such, to posit that they see China from a wholly Western perspective may be a limiting moral ground that obscures the facts.
Digging back in time however, there is a pertinent difference. Singapore was signed away largely voluntarily by a local Malay king for a then handsome price and remained so for about 150 years. This is unlike Hong Kong, which was ceded by the Chinese in a gesture of succumbing to military force and sanctions for a century. In more direct terms, they were bullied out of it by the West with unequal treaties. History sticks.
One country, two systems – the clock is ticking.
Just fifteen years into Fifty years of no change but there’s little I think the Chinese will leave to chance, preferring to sow seeds now to stabilise the big picture of the Beijing Consensus. After all, consensus has to start on its own turf, and to demonstrate this?
Recreate nationalist Chineseness by purging the relics of the colonial intermission of Hong Kong.
Interestingly enough, when the concept of nationalism for the birth of nation-state arrived in China, it was the perceived unfair ceding of Hong Kong that was one of the many instigators for the Chinese revolution.
And, before the current furore the Chinese University of Hong Kong had earlier engaged the question in 2011 – How is the dominant one-sided national education in Hong Kong affecting students’ sense of Chinese identity?
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No reason for Hongkongers to fear national education course
Source – Global Times, published August 2, 2012
Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets on Sunday to protest the introduction of a national education course that is set to begin in local primary schools this September.
Protestors argued that the course will “brainwash” students from early on. They also said that if the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region insists on introducing the course, a student strike might be launched.
Primary and middle schools in many countries have national education classes. The objection to it by some Hongkongers seems quite exceptional from a global point of view, and somewhat extreme.
In fact, those who oppose to it are likely to be more “brainwashed” by the Western ideology, as Hong Kong used to be a British colony. That’s why they were so vigilant against the course. They were seeing China from a Western perspective.
The core of such “national education” classes is to educate students about their civil identity and the national situation. They would be able to understand “who am I,” “what is Hong Kong,” and “what is China.” The classes will not serve as a form of brainwashing in favor of the central Chinese government. The patriotism throughout the classes will be beyond realistic politics.
It has not been long since Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997. It’s necessary to have such classes. The initiator of the course is Hong Kong’s education institution, not that of the mainland, and it is unlikely that the course will become the “political education lessons” that mainland students have. The course should fit into the current social reality of Hong Kong and aim to expand the vision of Hongkongers, so that it will help them adapt more smoothly to the national environment after Hong Kong’s return.
Hongkongers’ protests against such classes reflect their desire to maintain their original system. Reconciling the protestors and the authorities will be based on the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and carried out within the framework of the legal system.
The government of Hong Kong will probably make efforts to smooth away those people’s worries. What will be taught at the course and how the course will be taught may be eye-opening to mainland people in the end. If the protests are handled properly, both the mainland and Hong Kong can learn from the case.
Currently in both Hong Kong and the mainland, no matter what the government does, there will be opposition voices. The government of Hong Kong will not give in to protestors on whether to carry out the course or not. But how it will handle the issue is also worth careful pondering by the mainland.
After Hong Kong’s return, there are many cultural aspects where Hong Kong and the mainland compete and influence each other. Although Hong Kong is a small region, it always has its say in social affairs, thanks to the Western power embedded in it.
Setting up the national education course seems a process of the Chinese mainland influencing Hong Kong. But it is not an easy job judging from the current situation. The protestors defined the course as “brainwashing,” which is an extreme way of putting things. Setting Hong Kong aside, it is even impossible to “brainwash” mainland people.
China is proud of resuming the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. But it also brings some “trouble” to China’s political reality.
Properly handling the principle of “one country, two systems” is a process in which China’s system and society are being affected.
The mainland influences Hong Kong; at the same time, it is influenced in turn. The pressure for reform will grow as a result.
The protests about the national education course will only end up with the triumph of China as a whole. It’s unrealistic for those protestors to simply chase their own victory.
The article is an editorial published in the Chinese edition of the Global Times Wednesday. email@example.com